Trial of KSU professor goes to jury

By Katherine Wartell

Jurors began deliberations Friday morning in the rape trial of an assistant K-State professor following testimony from him Thursday in which he denied any criminal action.

William Yankey, 29, Manhattan, is accused of raping a former friend in December 2007 while visiting the woman and her husband over graduation weekend. The woman claims Yankey came into her bedroom after the three had spent the night in Aggieville and digitally penetrated her and groped her as she slept. Her husband, it was testified, was not in the bedroom at the time.

But Yankey, who said he was too drunk to remember the night, claimed Thursday the woman told him a different version of events in a subsequent meeting with her. He told jurors the woman said they were talking in her bedroom when he came on to her and tried to grope and kiss her.

The woman did not report the rape allegations until 2012.

In court Friday, closing statements came after two full days of testimony.

In the state’s final argument, Barry Disney, senior deputy assistant county attorney, asked jurors to question what motive the victim has to make up her story. “Why would she put herself in this position?” Disney asked, commenting that the theme of the defense’s argument has been that the woman has not acted like a “normal” rape victim.

But defense attorney Barry Clark said the state had not met the burden of proof and told jurors Yankey could not be convicted without a reasonable doubt. He said there is no physical evidence a crime took place.

During two hours of testimony, Yankey denied the allegations of rape and said on the night the alleged incident took place he had been blackout drunk following a night of drinking in Aggieville with the victim and her husband.

According to testimony, there are discrepancies between when the victim said the alleged rape happened and when Yankey said the three had partied in Aggieville. According to Yankey, the three went to Aggieville the night after the victim told jurors they had gone out.

Yankey also said they met at a local restaurant—where she told him about what had allegedly happened—the afternoon before he left town. The victim had previously told jurors they had met the previous night after Yankey had contacted her. That night—the same night Yankey said he was out with her—it was testified by several witnesses that the victim was out with female friends following a graduation party. 

Questioned by prosecutors, Yankey could not explain calls from his phone to her phone made at about 10:30 and 11:10 p.m. that night, telling jurors he did not remember making the call. According to the victim he had called her to discuss what had happened in her bedroom. 

Yankey told jurors that when he met with the victim following the alleged incident, he thought he was just meeting her for lunch and did not know anything was wrong.

He said the victim told him, “Something happened between us last night,” and told him he came on to her after consoling her about a fight with her husband. He said she told him that he tried to kiss and grope her.

Yankey told jurors that she had been stern during the alleged discussion but said she did not seem angry and said he did not feel like he was being informed of a crime. (The victim told jurors she specifically used the word rape in this instance.)

He testified that in the ensuing months and years, the victim was friendly toward him and did not treat him differently until he received an ominous text in the summer of 2009 following his move back to Manhattan. According to Yankey, the text said, “I still remember what happened.”

A few days later, he received another text from the victim stating she had told her husband. Not long after that, he said, he shared an angry phone call with her husband, during which Yankey said he was not able to speak.

In court Yankey told jurors he did not hear any allegations of rape until he was questioned by a detective in June 2012, a month after the victim had reported the crime. Questioned by his attorney, Yankey said the husband had repeated the same story as told to him by the victim.

But when questioned by Disney, he admitted it was possible the victim’s husband had accused him of rape during their phone discussion. He told jurors he figured it was hyperbolic rage.

Yankey described the falling out with the victim’s husband, his former best friend, as “heartbreaking.”

He told jurors the allegation has impacted his professional life, stating he will not be able to stay at K-State and is moving to Kansas City for a job at an architecture firm following the expiration of his K-State contract in June.

Following his testimony, four character witnesses, including friends, a former student and a colleague, were called on Yankey’s behalf to testify on his truthfulness and respect for the law.

One of those witnesses was the woman featured in a magazine photo the victim said inspired her to report the crime.

The woman, a former student and current friend of Yankey’s, told jurors Yankey is one of her best friends who has never lied to her and could even be considered brutally honest.

District Judge Meryl Wilson is presiding over the case.

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