Not Guilty Verdicts In Strip Search Trial

By Anne Marshall

(SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky.) -- A man was acquitted Tuesday on charges he impersonated a policeman during a phone call to a McDonald's and talked the managers into strip-searching and sexually abusing an 18-year-old female employee. WAVE 3's Anne Marshall reports.

Jurors took about an hour and 40 minutes to deliberate.

David Stewart, 38, of Fountain, Fla., was charged with impersonating a police officer, soliciting sodomy and soliciting sexual abuse.

Prosecutors accused him of calling a Louisville-area McDonald's on April 9, 2004, and instructing a manager to strip-search the employee to prove she had not stolen from the restaurant. The caller said Louise Ogborn had taken drugs and stolen money from a customer.

The victim testified that she was forced to perform sexual acts on the assistant manager's boyfriend during the 3½-hour conversation.

The assistant manager's boyfriend, Walter Nix Jr., pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and other crimes and was sentenced to five years in prison.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Steve Romines said the state "was not even close" to proving Stewart was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of making the phone call.

Romines said the evidence just wasn't there. "He was never on the phone, nobody could ever show he was on the phone."

Prosecutor Mike Mann disagreed. "I don't think the evidence ever pointed to anybody but David Stewart."

The phone card used to make the call was never found, but prosecutors were hoping a different calling card found at Stewart's home would be enough. It showed nine calls to other fast food restaurants across the country.

Romines argued that prosecutors were trying to make David Stewart a "scapegoat." He says the investigation into Stewart had several holes, and even questioned whether the phone call was part of a scam involving the victim, who is suing McDonald's for $200 million in a civil suit, saying the fast-food company did not adequately protect her from falling for the hoax.

McDonald's said the woman should have realized Stewart was not a police officer.

Stewart left the courtroom without a word. The 15-year sentence he avoided may not be the end -- other cities where similar calls were received have named Stewart as a person of interest.

"If they want to charge him, bring it on," Romines said. "This was the best case they had and we all saw how strong it was."

Mann pointed out that since Stewart's arrest, similar phone calls being made to restaurants across the nation have stopped. Ogborn's civil case against he restaurant giant was supposed to start in a couple weeks, but has been delayed until early next year.

Online Reporter: Anne Marshall

Online Producer: Michael Dever