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Man not guilty of raping young girl

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A man accused of raping a minor family member more than four years ago was exonerated Monday.

It took a Gwinnett County jury just about 45 minutes to find Kenneth Anthony Jones not guilty on charges of aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, incest and rape.

The alleged victim, now 19, recanted her original story several times, leaving the prosecution to rely on previous, inconsistent statements to authorities and the testimony of an inexperienced nurse, said defense attorney Lawrence Lewis.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Hughes was unavailable for comment Monday.

At one point, the alleged victim -- who was jailed on felony contempt charges for refusing to testify -- told jurors she made the whole thing up.

"I didn't feel like I got the attention I wanted," she said. "I thought ... I would go live with somebody else and the case would go away."

Lewis said he wasn't surprised at the verdict, but it was nice to hear, nonetheless -- especially for his client, a former security guard who he said has been unable to maintain decent employment because of the nature of the charges against him.

Jones was freed on bond almost a month after being arrested on Oct. 17, 2005, and has remained free. Jones turned down a plea offer of four years of probation and sex offender registry, Lewis said, though he was facing life in prison.

On Monday evening, Lewis could only describe his client as "relieved."

"I don't even think there are words for it," Lewis said. "When we heard 'not guilty' on count six, he was just unable to contain the emotion."