Australian rugby union player Kurtley Beale has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in a Sydney pub bathroom.
Prosecutors alleged he had groped the 29-year-old woman and later forced her to perform oral sex in December 2022.
But the Wallabies star, 34, said their encounter was consensual. His legal team argued the woman had lied to get sympathy from her fiancé.
After a two-week trial, a jury cleared Mr Beale of three charges.
The verdict paves the way for Mr Beale, who was suspended by Rugby Australia when he was charged, to return to the field.
Outside court, Mr Beale said he had always maintained his innocence: “My family and I have suffered a terrible year, and I’m so glad that the truth has come out.”
The case in the New South Wales District Court heard he and the complainant – who had both been drinking – met on a night out at the Beach Road Hotel in suburb Bondi.
The jury was shown CCTV footage which prosecutors said captured the moment Mr Beale had placed his hand on the woman’s bottom, and which later showed them entering and leaving the men’s bathroom.
Giving evidence, the woman – who cannot legally be named – said Mr Beale had barged into her toilet cubicle and forced himself on her.
She told the court she had repeatedly said “no”, and told Mr Beale “you’re married, I’m engaged, we can’t”.
In a phone call recorded by police a month later, the woman confronted Mr Beale – he apologised multiple times and said he may have “misjudged the whole scenario”. In another call with his manager, also recorded by police, he said he had “messed up”.
Summing up their case, prosecutors said he had been “reckless” as to whether or not the woman consented to his actions.
But Mr Beale’s lawyers said what happened in the toilet stall was consensual and initiated by the complainant.
The woman had originally claimed Mr Beale followed her into the bathroom, but CCTV showed she had entered second, his barrister Margaret Cunneen said.
Witnesses inside the men’s bathroom reported hearing what sounded like a sex act, but no distress or protestations from the complainant, the court heard.
At no point had Mr Beale said he knew the woman had not consented, Ms Cunneen argued – and in fact he had told his manager he believed that she had.
“I don’t shrink from suggesting that [the complainant] is a manipulative woman who curated circumstances of the night to turn the tables, to turn herself into a victim,” she said.
Rugby Australia said in a statement last January that it had suspended him from all forms of rugby “with immediate effect” in line with its code of conduct and would be carrying out its own investigations.
Full-back Beale, who has played 95 times for his country, returned to Australia in 2022 after a spell with French team Racing 92 to play for New South Wales Waratahs.