By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A Cleveland County jury found former OU Professor Dwain Pellebon not guilty on all nine counts in District Court — three counts of child sex abuse and six counts of lewd or indecent proposals to children — on Friday evening. In 2011, Pellebon, 56, was charged with felony chid sexual abuse. The eight-man, four-woman jury took four hours to deliberate and come to a final verdict after two weeks of testimony.
Despite Judge Tracy Schumacher’s instructions for courtroom order, Pellebon’s family and friends could not contain themselves and were already tense and quietly crying before the verdict was announced. Once the verdict was read, Pellebon’s family and friends reacted with emotional, full-body sobs and more crying.
Pellebon’s attorneys, David Smith and Jacquelyn Ford, said they had faith in the system all along.
“We waited two years for this. We had faith in our client and in the system. We’re glad for the families,” Smith said.
Pellebon said God was with him the whole time. And as he walked away from the defendant’s chair, he was surrounded and embraced by family and friends. In a circle, Pellebon grasped hands with those around him and said a prayer praising God for seeing him through.
“I’m not shocked. I trusted in God,” Pellebon said.
The prosecution, attorneys Lori Puckett and Susan Caswell, had no comment after the verdict was announced.
Although Pellebon is a free man, he said his life would never be the same.
“I’m vindicated but my life is changed forever,” Pellebon said.
In lengthy closing arguments Friday afternoon, defense attorney David Smith reminded jurors that many of the allegations were rumor and innuendo.
“Inappropriate behavior is not illegal. Creepy is not a crime,” Smith said.
He said Pellebon’s alleged victim didn’t provide the kind of “sensory details” needed to corroborate her story.
Lori Puckett, an assistant district attorney in Cleveland County, started her closing arguments Friday morning telling the jury that Pellebon spent many hours dedicated to earning children’s trust.
“He invested the hard work that went in to fostering a relationship with those children to give them special attention,” Puckett said. “Dwain Pellebon spent a lot of time fostering a relationship with those girls. He was their go-to-guy. They went to him to talk about personal issues. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that’s how a child predator works.”
Earlier Friday, the middle school teacher for a child who made sexual abuse claims against Pellebon said she never observed the girl fabricating stories.
“As far as I could tell, she always told the truth,” the teacher told jurors at Pellebon’s trial Friday morning. She was one of two final rebuttal witnesses called by the state Friday morning.
In her testimony Friday morning, the teacher, who now works in Ardmore, said the girl was one of the highest functioning in her special education class at middle school.
The trial began Oct. 21. Family members and friends have painted various pictures of Pellebon who has been free on bond since his arrest in 2011. In court today, one family member became visibly upset and was escorted from the courtroom by Pellebon’s defense attorney.
Additionally today, an interviewer at Mary Abbott Children’s House testified about going to Whittier in December 2011 to interview the child with a Norman police detective.
The interviewer testified she observed the child’s mother to be “distant” to her child. “She didn’t hug her,” she said.