This story contains information that is sensitive in nature, detailing incidents described in court.
Opening arguments were heard in Provo’s Fourth District Court Tuesday in the case of an Orem man charged with raping a Brigham Young University student in September 2015.
Nasiru Seidu, 41, is charged with raping Madi Barney, who was a 19-year-old BYU sophomore at that time, in her off-campus apartment in Provo. Tuesday was the first day of Seidu’s eight-day trial in front of a jury that was selected last week in Judge Darold McDade’s courtroom.
The Daily Herald does not normally name alleged victims of crimes, but is naming Barney after she went public with her story, agreeing to be named by multiple media outlets to advocate that in cases of sexual assault, victims be exempt from BYU’s honor code policy.
In response to the publicity Barney brought to the issue, BYU did make policy changes separating operations between its Honor Code and Title IX offices.
During opening statements at the trial, Barney’s attorney, Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson, told how the two had met at the gym and began dating.
Seidu introduced himself to Barney as someone named West, who was 26 and single. Seidu was 39 and married at the time.
According to Johnson’s statement, Barney and Seidu frequently met at her apartment, and began kissing consensually in her apartment on Sept. 25, 2015.
Barney reportedly told Seidu to get a condom, but Barney’s mood changed, and she told Seidu she no longer wanted to have sex, Johnson said. That’s when Seidu allegedly raped her.
Johnson played a portion of a phone call between Barney and Seidu that took place several days after the reported rape. The call was made in the presence of police.
In the recording, Barney can be heard urging Seidu to admit what he did.
“I can’t forgive you unless you tell me what you did,” Barney can be heard saying at one point during the phone call.
“You said I raped you,” Seidu responds in the recording. “I did, and I want you to forgive me.”
Johnson referred to the recording as the “smoking gun.”
“You heard him admit it, that he raped Madison Barney,” Johnson said to the jury.
But public defender Matthew Morrise, who represents Seidu, said that while Seidu had lied to Barney about his age and marital status, Barney was also willing to lie to get what she wanted.
He asked the jury to consider what may have prompted Seidu to say under those circumstances that he raped Barney.
It was a pretext call, Morrise told the jury, in which Barney told Seidu she was at her apartment and alone, neither of which was true.
“I want you to think about how in this call, about how over, and over and over, Miss Barney tells Mr. Seidu that she can’t forgive him unless he says that he raped her,” Morrise told the jury. “I want you to think about that word, forgive, and what that would have meant in the context of this phone call and in the context of this relationship.”
Morrise also said there were inconsistencies in what Barney told news media versus what she said at preliminary hearing, and said he plans to bring at least one reporter who published a story about Barney to testify during the trial.
“I want to make clear, this trial is not about whether (BYU’s policy change) was a good policy change or a bad policy change,” Morrise said. “That’s not relevant to what we are doing here. What’s relevant to this trial is that Miss Barney was not honest in her interviews with the news media.”
Johnson said he will be bringing friends to testify who spoke to Barney between the time of the reported rape and when she actually reported it to police.
“It’s important for you to listen what they said about her story of how this happened, because those things happened closer to the time than now, two years later,” Johnson told the jury.
Barney was the first to take the witness stand Tuesday, and other witnesses will be called throughout the day.