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DA drops rape charges against former Olympic wrestler

By: LANCE BENZEL
October 31, 2011
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A prosecutor on Monday dropped rape charges against a former Olympic wrestler a day before he was to face a jury for a second trial on allegations he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old female wrestler.

Stephen Abas, 33, left court a free man after prosecutor Beth Reed announced the decision at a brief pretrial hearing, according to his attorney, Dennis Hartley.

“I’m overjoyed for my client,” Hartley said. “He was ecstatic the whole ordeal is over. He gets to go home to his 2-year-old daughter.”

A spokeswoman for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Abas' accuser "didn't want to go through another trial."

"Without the victim, the case doesn't go forward and won't be refiled," said Lee Richards.

The move marks the final chapter of a legal ordeal that began in 2008 when a fellow wrestler from the Olympic Training Center accused Abas of forcing himself on her when she passed out drunk after a night of drinking in downtown Colorado Springs. Abas said the sex was consensual.

Hartley said charges cannot be refiled unless the District Attorney's Office can produce new evidence against the wrestler.

The two felony sex assault charges could have resulted in a life sentence under a state law that allows prisons to hold sex offenders until they are deemed safe to release.

A jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal at Abas’ first trial last April. Judge Robert Lowrey put the case on track for a second trial slated to begin Tuesday after plea negotiations faltered in the weeks after the mistrial.

The prosecutor who tried the case, Jessica Runge, has since left the District Attorney’s Office to go into private practice. She couldn’t be reached for comment.

Abas won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and competed at the 2008 Olympic trials, but retired when an injury sidelined his chance of making the national team.

According to Hartley, Abas lives in Fresno, Calif., and hopes to pursue a career as a college wrestling coach. Abas currently works in research and development at a commercial farm and coaches wrestling on the side at a mixed martial arts school.

His accuser was training for a berth in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The Gazette, which normally does not identify the alleged victims of sex assault, is withholding the woman’s name.

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