39° Good Afternoon
39° Good Afternoon

Jason Lee found not guilty of rape in Hamptons rental home

Jsson Lee arrives at Suffolk County Court in

Jsson Lee arrives at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead Wednesday afternoon, April 29, 2015, where he was later found not guilty of raping and assaulting an Irish tourist in East Hampton. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A Manhattan investment banker was acquitted Wednesday of raping an Irish tourist at his Hamptons rental home two summers ago.

Suffolk County Judge Barbara Kahn ruled Jason Lee, 38, was not guilty of rape in the first degree, sexual misconduct and assault in the third degree.

Lee did not comment after the verdict in his nonjury trial, which began April 8 in Riverhead. He faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.

"This was a false accusation," said one of his attorneys, Edward Burke Jr. "We're very troubled it went this far."

Kahn was not required to give a reason for her verdict and did not do so. The judge said she "made a careful review of the evidence" and decided that the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt was not met.

"The people's burden is a heavy burden," Kahn said.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said he has the "greatest respect" for the judge but disagreed with the ruling.

"Reasonable people will differ," Spota said. "The evidence proves the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Prosecutors asserted that Lee raped a 20-year-old woman in the bathroom of his East Hampton rental home on Clover Leaf Lane on Aug. 20, 2013, his 37th birthday.

Lee's defense on Tuesday said his client desperately tried to get four young guests to leave his rental that day because they were drunk and noisy.

The prosecutor countered that Lee was in a hurry because he had just raped one of the visitors, a female tourist from Ireland, and wanted them to leave or to get away himself.

The contradictory versions came as both sides made their closing arguments. The alleged rape came after a night out at a club and a morning of drinking at Lee's residence.

Defense attorney Andrew Lankler of Manhattan said Lee made several calls for taxis that morning because he was renting a house in a quiet neighborhood and, "He'd had drunken people in his house."

Despite claims of a rape and a victim who screamed and fought back, photos taken of Lee later that day showed no injuries, and the brother and two friends of the woman did not report hearing any commotion or screams, Lankler said.

While Lankler said in his opening statement that the sex was consensual, he did not make that specific argument in the closing, rather arguing the prosecution's case was weak. Lee did not testify.

Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly said in her closing statement that Lee showed his guilt by hiding in the rear seat of his sport utility vehicle after police arrived, and by making 49 phone calls or text messages trying to get a taxi and to reach friends.

Lee, who was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs at the time, had been out with a friend celebrating his 37th birthday when he met the woman and her friends at a local bar. He left Goldman Sachs last year, a company spokesman said.

After the club closed at 4 a.m., they all went to Lee's house, where the woman and a female friend jumped in a backyard pool in their underwear. Later that morning, the woman testified, she went to the bathroom to change her clothes, and Lee, who was naked, pushed his way into the bathroom and raped her.

Kelly said the woman had returned from Ireland to testify in the case, and had testified truthfully about drinking that night. "If there was no rape, why would you fly halfway around the world and come in here to perpetuate a lie?" the prosecutor said.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos