Rape conviction overturned, found not guilty in new trial

A Bellefonte man tried and convicted of rape in 2013 was found not guilty of the charges after a Thursday retrial at the Centre County Courthouse.

Philip Giunta II, 27, was 23 when he was charged with rape, sexual assault and indecent assault in June 2012. The charges stemmed from a September 2011 incident after an apartment party in downtown State College.

The charges alleged Giunta approached a woman — a former alleged high school acquaintance — at the party at about 2 a.m., and told her to follow him into the yard. When the woman refused, Giunta grabbed her arm and pulled her around the side of the house where the alleged assault occurred.

Guinta’s conviction was overturned in 2015, however, when a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel found merit in his claim that his defense lawyer was ineffective, indicating the attorney should have asked a Centre County judge to tell the jury that consent to sex is a defense to a rape charge.

The one-day trial Thursday was presided over by Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest, who administered Giunta’s trial in 2013. The case was prosecuted by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, according to Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

The jury first heard testimony by Giunta’s accuser, who tearfully recounted the night in question, saying she had met up with a few acquaintances at Penn State. The woman admitted to drinking before and during the party, and said she bumped into Giunta when they both got a beer from the same refrigerator.

She said he was someone she knew from high school, but were never friends and never involved romantically.

After getting a beer, she said, Giunta kissed her briefly and said the two were going to “hook up” that night. Later, after her friends left, she said she didn’t feel well and went outside to get some fresh air.

Giunta allegedly came out and asked her to follow him around the side of the house. When she refused, she said he grabbed her by the arm, pushed her to the ground and assaulted her.

Forensic nursing consultant Jenifer Markowitz provided expert testimony on the injuries found on the woman following an examination at Mount Nittany Medical Center. A laceration in the woman’s genitals had caused noticeable bleeding.

Markowitz said the type of injury could be caused by a foreign object, like a fingernail, and described it as an unusual wound. She could not, however, provide an opinion if the wound was caused by consensual or non-consensual intercourse.

Several of the partygoers, including the residents of the apartment, testified to seeing both Giunta and the woman at the party through the course of the night with varying degrees of interaction. Most were consistent that toward the end of the party, they had seen the woman come in from outside crying and bleeding with dirt and grass on her dress.

Giunta took the stand in his own defense, testifying that the woman was very flirtatious with him during the party. After getting the beer, he stated she kissed him and said she wanted to have sex.

After they both found themselves outside, he claimed they had started kissing when he penetrated her with his fingers. After that, she performed oral sex on him and they briefly had sex in the yard.

After about two-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on the following counts: rape with forcible compulsion, sexual assault, indecent assault without consent and indecent assault with forcible compulsion.

Rebecca Franz of the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General prosecuted the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Giunta was represented by attorney Lance Marshall.

Giunta would remain incarcerated in Benner state prison for the evening, Ruest said, with his release to be worked out the following morning.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews