CLEVELAND — During a bench trial that ended Monday, a judge found a Cleveland police officer guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition but dismissed two charges of rape against him for two separate incidents that occurred in 2017 and 2019.
Matthew Piter, 28, was originally indicted on three counts of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition.
On Monday, Judge John J. Russo found Piter not guilty on two counts of rape from an incident that happened between May 1 and May 31, 2017. Lauren Little said Piter sexually assaulted her inside her home.
"I do believe Ms. Little and I do find her to be credible. I believe, Mr. Piter, that something happened that night. And I do find, as I said, Ms. Little's testimony credible, but the evidence is evidence presented beyond a reasonable doubt," Russo said.
Russo said the evidence presented for the two counts of rape do not rise to the acceptable legal standard to find him guilty.
Little said she was disappointed by the verdict. She recently traveled from Washington state back to Cleveland to testify.
"You tell the world your story, tell a court your story and then still get to hear, 'I believe your testimony. I believe that you're a good, honest person. I believe the events of that happened that night, but we're still going to rule not guilty,'" said Little.
On the other count of rape and the count of gross sexual imposition, both charges that stemmed from an incident on Oct. 24, 2019 involving a woman he met on Tinder, Russo said that while he found the evidence credible and the victim's testimony credible, it was not enough for the indicted charge of rape, but to a lesser offense of gross sexual imposition.
Russo said there was sufficient evidence to find Piter guilty of the other count of gross sexual imposition.
Little said she was pleased with that decision, but still not totally satisfied.
"Bittersweet. I'm happy that there's going to be some accountability on his part, but I don't feel that it's nearly as stringent as it should have been," said Little.
Despite the outcome, Little said she's grateful for the support she's received from prosecutors and is ready to move forward.
"I'm really thankful that they believed us and listened to our story and let us tell our side of the story. And my hope is that just any woman, man out there, child out there is okay with telling their story so you don't wait the five years and you get to get justice for something that happened to you," said Little.
With the ruling, Piter will be required to register as a tier one sex offender for 15 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced on the two counts of gross sexual imposition on Feb. 28 at 9:30 a.m.
Piter resigned from Cleveland police effective Feb. 7, according to the department.
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