The return to the NRL of Dragons player Jack De Belin is on hold after a jury failed to reach a verdict in his rape trial.
After two days of deliberation, the jury told the court that “the division … has remained constant and is unlikely to change” before they were sent home.
Outside of court, De Belin’s attorney said, “of course he’s disappointed.”
Callan Sinclair’s legal team said they were more determined than ever to beat the charges.
Steps are now being taken to set a date for a new trial, possibly at a different location, with no date available in Wollongong until August 2021, although the DPP has yet to confirm that they will go ahead.
Almost two years ago, De Belin and Sinclair ran into the then 19-year-old woman on the dance floor at a Wollongong nightspot during Santa’s annual bar crawl.
De Belin said she walked up to him, hugged him and at one point grabbed his hat playfully.
“Did I just say something like ‘aren’t you kinda cute’?”
CCTV was shown to the court of the woman dancing and sharing kisses with Sinclair.
Later, De Belin approached Sinclair and said, “I think we’re here,” then approached the woman.
“I went up to her and said ‘you, me and Cal,'” he claimed to have told her.
The woman said she thought they were heading to another nightclub when De Belin detoured to her cousin’s apartment.
But De Belin and Sinclair argued that she knew about the plan.
Back at the apartment, the woman said De Belin undressed without warning.
“He was standing behind me; he unbuttoned my blouse and then pushed me onto the bed.”
She told the court that she said stop, but eventually gave up.
“I was dying inside … I couldn’t fight back.”
And she claimed De Belin strangled her.
“I didn’t feel like I could breathe, I thought I was about to pass out.”
Sinclair was charged with undressing and participating in the alleged assault at De Belin’s urging.
De Belin said later that he heard her say to Sinclair, “Oh my God, he has a girlfriend.”
“Don’t stress it baby, we’re on the rocks anyway, it’s complicated,” he assured her.
“At any time during any sexual activity you have described … did you ever believe that (she) was not consenting?” asked his attorney David Campbell SC at trial.
“No, I didn’t” he replied.
Then the woman ordered an Uber and lined up for another nightclub in town.
De Belin’s lawyer pointed to that behavior, as well as the CCTV of his laughter, as he argued that his story was implausible.
But the woman told the court that she was trying to act normal and find a time to leave without making a scene.
“Those guys you saw me with just sexually abused me,” she texted a friend who had seen her at the Uber.
Campbell told the jury that it could have been an attempt to stop the rumors or put out a wildfire.
The next day he went to the police and both men slowly learned of his accusations.
At trial, De Belin’s defense did not try to hide its mistakes.
“You behaved in a way that was morally wrong, you know. You cheated on your partner; you know. You should have been more responsible, you know. You should have been more respectful, you know,” Mr. Campbell argued.
But he told the jury that a lack of trial did not mean he was a rapist.
“This is not a moral court; you are not asked to make a moral judgment.”
De Belin was the first person to withdraw under the no-fault rule of the NRL.
He fought against this new policy in the Federal Court, which ruled against him.
Although he was unable to play, Padlock continued to train and was loyal to the Dragons.
In September, the club issued a statement about its future.
“The Dragons can confirm that De Belin agreed in principle to re-sign with the Dragons beyond the 2020 season, pending the outcome of their impending court case.”
The case returns to court on Wednesday.