The second trial began in September. to Driscoll, it felt like a slowly replaying nightmare. "I was numb to it," he says. "I didn't have a whole lot of faith." He wanted to move out of town after the trial was over, but he didn't pack. "Why spend the next week packing when it won't matter?" he says. "I'd never see my stuff again if it went bad." This time around, Coran staged a more vocal and assertive defense—Driscoll thought they'd been too passive during the first trial, so now they countered every claim the prosecution made and Driscoll testified in his own defense. One of the jurors, Glenda Hart, 40, a stay-at-home mom, says, "When he got on the stand, he just looked like a big stupid kid with a deer-in-the-headlights look."
Five weeks later, on October 6, Driscoll's ordeal was over. After just an hour of deliberation, the jury came back with its verdict: He was acquitted of all charges. According to Hart, the trial was a monumental waste of taxpayer money: "We could have come back with a not-guilty verdict five minutes after we walked into the jury room." Perceptions of the main witnesses aside, what clinched it for her was the video of Driscoll taking his shirt off in the interrogation room to show the police his chest. "She had fingernails," Hart says of the accuser. "If she had done all of that punching and scratching, why didn't he have any marks? There should have been something, and there was nothing."
Driscoll doesn't remember much about that final day in court. When his attorney told him the verdict was in, his stomach dropped. He gave his wallet and cell phone to his mom and hugged her goodbye, just in case. When he heard "not guilty" after the first charge, he turned to Coran. "He gave me a look like, 'It's going to be all right,'" Driscoll says.
But being cleared legally would never deliver the kind of closure he was looking for. His name was not on any law-enforcement sex-offenders lists, but the public's perception was another matter. Whatever the jury's verdict and however decisive the exoneration, to be accused of rape is to be guilty of something. "My attorney told me that when it ends, you're not going to get an apology," Driscoll says. "No one—not her, not the D.A.—is going to say, 'I'm sorry. We screwed up,' and it's really going to bother you. He was right. It was like, 'Okay, you're free. Bye.' And I have nothing left."
Driscoll now lives in Portland with his new girlfriend, Natalie Hammon. They met about a year ago, between the two trials, when Driscoll sent her a message on Facebook. (She was a friend of a friend.) Hammon didn't know anything about his background and found out, she says, "in a not very good way." A friend called her and said, "Did you know what's going on with him?" She Googled Driscoll and was stunned. When she confronted him, he didn't deny that he had been accused. He maintained his innocence. He also showed her every bit of evidence he had—the videos of his and his accuser's interrogations, the police reports, the medical findings. "Part of me was like, 'This is too much,'" she says. "But another part was like, 'I'll take a chance.'"
She did, and helped him make the decision to reject the plea deal. "If we want to have kids someday," she says, "he'd have had to register as a sex offender and we wouldn't have been able to live near a school or have other kids come over." When he was found not guilty, she mass-texted her friends: "Not guilty on all seven counts."
Since moving out of his home in Redmond in October, Driscoll has spent most of his time in the apartment he shares with Hammon. The first time I met him, it was the day after New Year's, but he hadn't celebrated. "I don't go anywhere," he says. "I'm either at home or at school." He wants to eventually apply to medical school, something he has always wanted to do, but worries that he won't be accepted anywhere. His friend Angela Dundas says that before the arrest, they'd go out and he'd have a group of new friends by the end of the night. No longer. "He's constantly worried about someone finding out," she says. Sometimes when they're together, friends take her aside to ask if Driscoll is the guy who was accused of rape. The less-shy ones will ask if she thinks he did it. "My response is, 'Yeah, I choose to hang around with people who beat and rape women,'" she says with disgust.