SOMERVILLE NJ Feb 5 2017 -- Jason Belin lowered his head into the palm of his hands and wept openly Friday afternoon in Somerset County Superior Court as the jury found him not guilty of raping a 14-year-old girl in the summer of 2010 while he worked as a security guard at Franklin Township Middle School.
The six-day trial before Superior Court Judge Kathy C. Qasim ended Thursday and the jury returned its verdict Friday afternoon.
Belin, now 36, was accused of raping the student in his pickup truck on June 25, 2010 after a school event.
The jury found him not guilty on two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Belin walked out of the courtroom a free man.
Hassen Abdellah, who represented Belin, argued that the victim misidentified his client as her rapist. During his closing, he pointed out repeated instances in the victim's testimony in which she failed to definitively identify Belin as her assailant.
Assistant Prosecutor Merrill M. Mezzacappa tried the case.
"It's a sad situation for everybody involved," said Abdellah. "I said from the inception that she picked the wrong person. It was a case of misidentification. I'm not saying that this didn't happen to this young lady. She said my client looked like somebody. That's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
"My client and I send our empathy and sympathy to this young lady and her family. No one wants something like this to happen to their child. But my client didn't do it. That's why we have the system that we have."
The girl, now 20, told police at the time that she spoke with Belin at the event, where he was working security, the prosecutor said. While returning home from the event, the girl said she saw a pickup truck parked in the street with its flashing lights on.
The attacker, who was allegedly in the vehicle, asked her to get in and she did, the prosecutor stated. He allegedly assaulted her while they were in the vehicle.
The victim didn't report the rape until three years later on Jan. 28, 2013. Belin was arrested the next day.
"My client finally gets his life back," said Abdellah. "At the time, he was hoping to become a police officer. Hopefully, he can get his life back on track."