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A 24-year-old man was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman who accused him of molesting her because the defense states that he was “sleepwalking” during the crime.

Mathew Nelson of Bloomington was acquitted after about 90 minutes of deliberation Thursday by a McLean County jury. The alleged victim, now 21, testified that she saw Nelson come into her room from the living room where he was sleeping on the couch, after a night of Nelson and herself drinking with friends.

The defense argued that Nelson did not commit the assault but if he did, he was not responsible for his actions because of the sleepwalking condition.

Nelson testified that he recalled falling asleep at the apartment and awakened to punching and yelling by the boyfriend of the alleged victim’s sister. The alleged victim contacted her sister after the alleged assault, and she and her boyfriend came over.

A defense expert, Dr. Neil Feldman, testified sleepwalking is triggered by several factors, including sleep deprivation, alcohol and sleep apnea. He said there is a genetic link to the condition and that sleepwalkers have no memory after the fact.

Defense lawyer Stephanie Wong commented after the trial that

“What is so unfortunate is that this young man suffered under a cloud of suspicion and unrelenting stress for a year before he was acquitted in 90 minutes. The shortness of the deliberations should send a clear message that the State should have carefully evaluated this case before subjecting this young man and his family to this kind of pain.”