By John Futty
The Columbus Dispatch Saturday February 4, 2012 5:51 AM
A former nurse’s aide was taken to jail yesterday after Franklin County jurors convicted him of raping a woman who was recuperating from surgery in the Victorian Village rehabilitation center where he worked.
Tizazu Arega, 34, was found guilty of one count of rape and one count of sexual battery. He was acquitted of a second rape count. He could be sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison when he appears before Common Pleas Judge John P. Bessey on March 1.
The judge revoked Arega’s bond after the verdicts were announced.
The 29-year-old woman, who is legally blind, spent nearly two months at Heartland-Victorian Village on Thurber Drive W. after having surgery on a leg that was shattered when she was struck by a car.
She testified that Arega placed her wheelchair in front of the closed door to her room and raped her vaginally and anally on Sept. 1, 2010. She was not in the courtroom for the verdict.
Arega testified that the sex was consensual, that she initiated it and that he and the woman had a flirtatious relationship. But during cross-examination by Assistant County Prosecutor Megan Jewett, Arega struggled to explain his repeated denials to Heartland officials and police detectives that any sexual contact took place.
Arega’s attorney, Karen Phipps, called it a “he-said, she-said” case and questioned inconsistencies in the woman’s story.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 10 hours over parts of three days before reaching the verdicts early yesterday afternoon.
Arega, of Irongate Lane in Whitehall, was convicted of the rape count alleging vaginal sex and acquitted of a count alleging anal sex. The verdicts were consistent with testimony from a sexual-assault nurse about where semen was found during an examination of the woman in Riverside Methodist Hospital.
The evidence provided a DNA profile that matched Arega’s.
The sexual-battery conviction was based on state law that prohibits sexual conduct between “a patient in a hospital or other institution” and anyone with “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over that person.
The Dispatch does not name those who report having been sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified.