Sleepwalker Not Guilty of Sex Assault

Monday, Aug 16, 2010  |  Updated 1:09 PM CDT
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Prosecutors say a night of drinking preceded the assault, but the defense claimed their client isn't guilty, even if he did try to have sex with the woman -- because he was sleepwalking.

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A central Illinois man with a history of sleepwalking has been acquitted of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman.

McClean County jurors deliberated for less than two hours before acquitting 24-year-old Mathew Nelson of Bloomington.

A 21-year-old woman testified she and Nelson drank with friends before Nelson fell asleep on her couch. She says Nelson later entered her bedroom and assaulted her.

Defense attorneys argued that even if Nelson committed the assault, he wasn't responsible because of his sleepwalking condition.

Nelson testified that he remembered falling asleep and waking up to find a man punching him. The man was called by the alleged victim.

Evidence used in Nelson's defense included his personal and family history of sleepwalking, as well as expert testimony that Nelson's severe sleep apnea increased his risk of sleepwalking, the Bloomington Pentagraph reported.

"What is so unfortunate is that this young man suffered under a cloud of suspicion and unrelenting stress for a year before he was acquitted in 90 minutes," Nelson's defense lawyer told the Pentagraph. "The shortness of the deliberations should send a clear message that the State should have carefully evaluated this case before subjecting this young man and his family to this kind of pain.”

Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Patton said it was "a tough case" and that there's no case law in Illinois on sleepwalking.

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