Husband acquitted in Bobbitt trial



MANASSAS, Va. (AP)—John Bobbitt was acquitted Wednesday of sexually assaulting his wife after a jury rejected her argument that she sliced off his penis to retaliate ‘‘at the very thing that harmed her.’‘

‘‘I’m thankful to the jury. They believed me,’‘ Bobbitt said. ‘‘I just want to get on with my life.’‘

Bobbitt’s wife, Lorena, will be tried on Nov. 29 on a malicious wounding charge. The same prosecutor will handle that case and wants to use the testimony against her. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, as her husband had on a charge of marital sexual assault.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated about four hours before clearing Bobbitt.

Bobbitt, 26, jumped from his chair and hugged his lawyer, Gregory Murphy, then buried his face in Murphy’s shoulder as Bobbitt’s aunt shouted, ‘‘Oh Lord, thank you!’‘

‘‘I look forward to the day when Lorena Bobbitt is not in the lexicon of the feminist movement because she’s not telling the truth,’‘ Murphy said.

Mrs. Bobbitt, 24, who had been cited by some feminists as a symbol of just how far abused wives can be driven, wasn’t in court.

In closing arguments, both sides focused on inconsistencies in the couple’s stories of what happened the night of June 23.

‘‘Why did she cut his penis off? Something happened and I submit to you something sexual happened that offended her and drove her over the edge,’‘ prosecutor Paul B. Ebert said.

She ‘‘struck out at the very thing that harmed her, the thing that hurt and she severed it,’‘ Ebert said.

Mrs. Bobbitt testified that her husband woke her, pinned her to their bed, yanked off her underwear and raped her.

Bobbitt testified that he initiated sex and his wife didn’t resist. Murphy said Mrs. Bobbitt concocted a story of sexual abuse because she was angry over the dissolution of their four-year marriage.

‘‘The prosecution tells you that two wrongs don’t make a right. Well, that’s right,’‘ Murphy told the jury. ‘‘The emasculation of John Bobbitt is the first wrong. The second wrong is the fabrication of facts in this case.’‘

After cutting off her husband’s penis, Mrs. Bobbitt testified, she fled their apartment and threw the severed organ out her car window.

Police found it in the grass and it was reattached in a nine-hour operation. Bobbitt is recovering but has not yet regained sexual function, doctors said.

Murphy listed a half-dozen points where Mrs. Bobbitt’s testimony contradicted other witnesses or her previous statements.

He said she gave conflicting statements about where she was on several days preceding the alleged attack, and took scissors to her underwear to make it appear they were ripped off her body.

A crime lab scientist testified the tear appeared to come from force, but an expert witness for Bobbitt said the panties were cut.

Murphy also noted testimony from a woman who accidentally hit Bobbitt on his bicycle with her car a few days before the mutilation. Murphy said Mrs. Bobbitt was jealous of the woman when she delivered a new bike, and stared out the window while her husband talked to the woman in a parking lot.

Bobbitt was charged with marital sexual assault, not rape, because under Virginia law the latter only applies to couples living apart or if the victim is seriously physically injured.

After the verdict, Ebert said he brought the charge against Bobbitt because ‘‘I believed her and I didn’t believe him.’‘ He said Bobbitt’s acquittal will have no bearing on Mrs. Bobbitt’s trial, and that he plans to use her testimony against her. The final decision rests with the judge.

Bobbitt, too, still has trouble on another legal front. Beatrice L. Williams, 21, of Niagara Falls, N.Y., named him as the father of her 10-month-old son and filed a paternity suit against him, her lawyer said Wednesday.