The Douglas County district attorney has dismissed long-pending cases against Rontarus Washington Jr. and Albert Wilson, the office announced Wednesday.
Washington was charged in 2015 with the murder of a woman who lived down the hall from him, 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. The case went to a nearly monthlong trial in September 2019, but jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. A retrial was set to begin in July 2022.
“Upon extensive review of this case, as well as a meticulous assessment of potential outcomes and adverse impacts of proceeding with the retrial, it is with a heavy heart that I have elected to cease prosecution in this matter at this time,” DA Suzanne Valdez said in a statement about Washington’s case posted online Wednesday.
Wilson was previously convicted of rape, but his conviction was overturned and he was granted a retrial, which was set to begin in February. That trial will not move forward. The case has drawn national attention because many believed Wilson, a young Black man, was wrongly convicted by a jury of mostly white women, symptomatic of larger issues of systemic racism.
“Earlier this week, Retired Judge (Kevin) Moriarty facilitated a restorative justice session between the survivor and Mr. Wilson. To protect the sanctity of the process and the privacy and dignity of the parties, all involved agreed that what occurred during that session shall remain confidential,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
“Justice comes in different forms, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to resolving delicate, difficult matters. By and large, justice is dictated by the unique intricacies of each individual case and the objectives and expectations of the parties. The unique intricacies of this case led the parties to a resolution by way of restorative justice.”
Joshua Dubin, an attorney for both men, said Wednesday evening as he was still processing the news, “I have nothing to say but how relieved I am.”
“On behalf of my co-counsel, the law firm of Morgan Pilate, and the Midwest Innocence Project we are relieved and ecstatic that the Douglas County prosecutor dismissed the charges against our client Rontarus Washington,” Dubin said later. “We have always believed that Rontarus was wrongfully accused and we are thankful to all involved in arriving at this just outcome. We know that in all of this, a family still mourns and our hearts go out to Justina Mosso’s loved ones. While nothing can heal the wound of her loss, we thank the prosecutor for ensuring that this crime did not result in two injustices.”
Regarding Wilson’s case, Dubin said “Albert and his sister in law Nichole are very special to me. I am extremely grateful that he is able to put this ordeal behind him and it is my sincere hope that everyone affected can heal and find closure.”
Both prosecutions began under former DA Charles Branson and continued after Valdez took office in January.
Below are full statements from the DA’s office:Washington
Story last updated 7:59 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22; additional photos added at 9:14 p.m.