A Superior Court of Guam jury took less than two hours to return with a not guilty verdict in the rape trial against former UFC fighter John Walter Cruz Tuck, 36.
Tuck was acquitted of the allegations that he sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman near the Westin Resort Guam chapel in Tumon in March 2020.
The jury deliberated Friday afternoon and came back with the not guilty verdict on all charges to include three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Tuck’s attorney Randall Cunliffe said his client was in tears, hugged him and thanked him after Judge Maria Cenzon announced the jury’s unanimous decision.
“Obviously, we are very happy and thankful for the jury’s verdict. It’s never fun sitting in a courtroom and going through that kind of a thing. Very emotional for Mr. Tuck. It’s been a tough 14-months for him and his family,” said Cunliffe. “I don’t know what they hung their hat on. I’m just glad they hung their hat the right way.”
Tuck did not provide a comment to the media, as he exited the courthouse with his family late Friday.
“The jury just didn’t find that there was enough evidence to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and there is nothing more that we can say. We’ve done our best and the prosecution presented all of the evidence that we had, and if that was the jury’s verdict then we can only stand by it,” said Assistant Attorney General Richelle Canto. “(The victim) was very strong to face her attacker. The not guilty verdict doesn’t mean that it did not happen to her.”
No word yet if Tuck does plan to return to mixed martial arts now that he’s been cleared.
The trial went for about four days in the local court before both parties presented their closing arguments.
“No means no,” said prosecuting attorney Canto during closing arguments held on Friday morning. “No matter what you do in life. No matter what your position is. That doesn’t give you license to disrespect a woman. That doesn’t give you license to force yourself on them.”
The prosecutor told the jury that the evidence will show that the pair had sex.
“He forced himself on a 21-year-old woman…who had three drinks in a span of 30 minutes. (The victim) told you she told him no three times,” she said. “She did resist and with her tiny 83-pound frame, of course she was unable to resist the defendant. You see for yourself the defendant’s height and muscular physical attributes.”
Canto told the jury that the victim also got a sexual assault exam following the alleged rape.
“Would a woman planning to have sex be so unprepared that now they need to get an STD medication and plan B? These are the actions of a woman who was raped. You have to ask yourself why would a woman who was planning all of this all along – maybe she wanted to blackmail the defendant – pull all of her savings to leave Guam and never to return until her testimony was needed,” she said. “This was a 21-year-old young woman who says that she now felt so unsafe that she just did not want to be on Guam anymore.”
Canto said the victim was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety after going into therapy back in the US Mainland.
“She never got any money. She never asked him for money. He never gave her any money. And as a result of this case, she isn’t going to be receiving any money,” she said. “Apparently the defendant didn’t respect no means no. He just didn’t care…He raped her when he had her pinned against the wall as she said no and tried so hard to resist this strong man.”
Canto asked the jury to find Tuck guilty of the crime.
However, defense attorney Cunliffe argued that his client is not guilty.
“This case is about credibility. Is (the victim) telling the truth?” said Cunliffe. “My client’s fate lies in your determination of what part of (the victim’s) testimony is true.”
He reminded the jury of the victim’s testimony that the she came to the island for vacation and for work.
“She said on the witness stand that Mr. Tuck was acting aggressively with the dancers,” he said. “She said on the witness stand that he acted like he owned the place. On cross-examination I asked did you tell that to police…she didn’t tell them that. Why not? Well, that makes John look like a bad guy. Did it happen? That’s for you to decide. She said I had 14 months and had time to think about it and remembered more. Now she remembers it. Why? Because it helps her case. It helps her look like a victim because he’s a bad guy.”
Defense continued to question the victim’s credibility during closing arguments.
“Is she telling us the truth about what was going on? If John just raped her then why would they walk back to Jardee’s,” he said. “There was no damage in her (genitals)…Basically we have nothing but (the victim’s) statement that he forced her to do these things…The testimony is just not believable.”
Cunliffe adds there is no evidence that Tuck even threatened the alleged victim.
“I submit to you that it was physically impossible for him to do what she said,” he said. “We ask that you return a not guilty verdict on every count against Mr. Tuck.”
However, attorney Canto said during her rebuttal that the victim did not make up the allegations.
“This is a story of a man who doesn’t have respect for a woman, who doesn’t understand that when a woman says no, she means no,” Canto said. “He raped her and I ask you to return with a verdict of guilty.”