Criminal charges have been dropped against a former University of Arizona dean accused of raping and injuring an unconscious woman at his Catalina Foothills home.
Former UA pharmacy dean Jesse Lyle Bootman, who has maintained his innocence since he was charged in 2015, will not face trial after an out-of-town prosecutor cast doubt on the likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office turned the case over to a Maricopa County prosecutor a few months ago after defense lawyers claimed the local law-enforcement establishment was biased in favor of Bootman’s accuser.
Bootman, 67, was charged with sexual assault, sexual abuse, aggravated assault, kidnapping and drugging the accuser with a prescription sleep aid.
The woman sustained a broken nose and other injuries in what authorities described as a “brutal” attack.
In an email statement Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said new information came to light that “challenged the initial assessment that we could prove the charges filed beyond a reasonable doubt.”
He said the new information sprang from a related civil lawsuit launched by the alleged victim.
The civil case raised questions about the depth of the relationship between Bootman and his accuser prior to the alleged sexual assault, court records show.
Testifying in a civil deposition, the woman described Bootman as a former business contact, virtually the same description she gave Pima County sheriff’s investigators. She said she had no sexual relationship with him.
Under questioning, it emerged the woman spent a weekend in San Diego in 2011 at a condominium Bootman owned there. Under oath, she said she spent the weekend alone.
But Bootman’s lawyers filed documents with the court — including airline tickets, cellphone and email records — that showed she and Bootman made plans to meet up and stay at his place together.
Bootman purchased both of their airline tickets, the documents showed.
Though nothing in the written exchanges was sexually suggestive, Bootman’s lawyers maintained the two were lovers who “spent the night” in a “romantic relationship.”
The defense said the San Diego trip supported Bootman’s contention that the woman was a willing participant in the 2015 incident for which he was criminally charged.
Because of the discrepancies, defense attorneys filed a motion accusing the woman of perjury and requesting she be barred from testifying if the criminal case went to trial. That motion was still awaiting a judge’s ruling when the charges were dropped.
“Questions surrounding the nature of prior interactions between the victim and the defendant and the circumstances surrounding the allegations of a sexual assault cannot be satisfactorily addressed at this point in time with the available evidence,” Montgomery, the Maricopa County attorney, said in explaining the decision to drop charges.
He said his office filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the case without prejudice. “This would allow us to refile the case should additional evidence come forward that permits us to reassess the likelihood of securing a conviction and prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Attorney William Walker, who represents Bootman’s accuser in the civil lawsuit, said the civil case will go ahead as planned.
“The dismissal of criminal charges will have no impact. We intend to go forward and prove his liability” for the woman’s injuries, Walker said.
Civil lawsuits use a lesser standard of evidence than criminal cases, so a defendant who is not convicted criminally can still be found liable for damages in civil court under the same set of facts.
“I think the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office simply dropped the ball on this,” Walker said. “They did not understand the nature of the case.”
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall volunteered to transfer the case to a Maricopa prosecutor earlier this year after Bootman’s attorneys raised an allegation of prosecutorial bias.
The defense claimed Bootman’s accuser had an overly cozy relationship with local prosecutors and law enforcement because she was a key witness years ago in a high-profile criminal case. LaWall’s office disputed the claim.
LaWall’s office had no comment Wednesday on the Maricopa prosecutor’s decision to drop charges.
Bootman’s legal team put out a news release Tuesday saying the former UA dean “is incredibly thankful to finally put this matter to rest and to move on from this terribly painful chapter in his life.
“He looks forward to continuing with his personal and professional endeavors now that this is over,” said the statement from defense attorneys Joshua Hamilton, Clay Hernandez and Rick Lougee.
Hamilton, reached by phone, said he didn’t know if Bootman intended to stay on at the UA, where he has been on leave with pay since 2015.
Bootman was removed as dean and banned from campus in the wake of the criminal charges but still draws a $253,000 annual salary.
UA’s public relations staff could not be reached for comment Wednesday on Bootman’s status at the university.