State’s highest appeals court stands by ruling in BU rape case

Sam Ukwuachu (Jail photo)
Sam Ukwuachu (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Jul. 25, 2018 at 12:14 PM CDT
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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday refused to reconsider its decision to reinstate the 2015 sexual assault conviction of former Baylor University football player Sam Ukwuachu, whose case helped fuel the scandal that engulfed the school’s football program.

The court stood by its June 6 ruling that a lower court erred by overturning the conviction based on text messages between the victim and a friend that had not been allowed in trial.

The trial court only allowed into evidence texts she sent after the assault.

Ukwuachu's attorney argued the earlier text messages would show the woman consented to sex.

His attorneys filed a motion on June 21 seeking a rehearing on the appeal, which the court denied on Wednesday.

Ukwuachu was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and six months in jail, but served an abbreviated sentence.

The June ruling allows him to continue appealing his conviction, but not on the text message issue.

In August 2015, the one-time All-American who transferred to Baylor, but never played for the school, was found guilty of raping an 18-year-old female athlete in October 2013.

He could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison, but jurors decided on probation and ultimately State District Judge Matt Johnson sentenced Ukwuachu to 10 years on probation, 180 days in county jail and ordered him to perform 400 hours of community service.

Ukwuachu was released from jail on a $100,000 appeal bond on Oct. 29, 2015.

On March 23, 2017, the Waco-based 10th Court of Appeals reversed the conviction based upon evidence presented during arguments before the appeals panel that brought question to some evidence that was presented in trial.

Prosecutors asked the criminal appeals court to review the ruling.

Appeals lawyers for Ukwuachu argued that evidence from cellular telephone records pertaining to certain times that phones were used proved that the prosecution’s assertion that the times recorded on the cell phones supported their case against Ukwuachu.

Prosecutors said the phone records proved that a witness for the defendant lied in his testimony because the data showed that the witness could not have been at Ukwuachu’s apartment at the time of the incident and could not have witnessed the interaction between Ukwuachu and his accuser.

But in the appeal lawyers argued that times posted by prosecutors were local times and the times included in the data actually were six hours earlier than the local time.