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An Albany man was acquitted of charges that he sexually assaulted two girls in Philomath when they were 7 and 9 years old.

Jose Alberto Santiago Murguia, 31, was released Friday from the Benton County Jail after spending 17 months in jail on charges of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sex abuse.

After a week-long trial, a 12-person jury found Santiago Murguia not guilty on all three charges.

The crimes were alleged to occur in 2004, but they were not reported until 2010.

The elder girl involved in the case has an intellectual disability and severe communication deficits. She told her foster mother of the abuse in short phrases and gestures, indicating that Santiago Murguia was the person responsible. She was not able to testify verbally, however, due to her level of functioning.

The younger girl testified to seeing the older girl being sexually abused. She testified that when she tried to stop it, she also was raped by Santiago Murguia.

Nicolas Ortiz, who is Murguia's attorney, said that psychology professor Daniel Reisberg of Reed College, an expert witness for the defense, testified that the younger girl's combination of general and specific memory was inconsistent with the way memory works.

Commenting on the case, Deputy District Attorney Karen Stanley wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette-Times: "I can say that the jury clearly gave a lot of thought and deliberation to this case ... They went out around 4 p.m. on Thursday and did not return with a verdict until around 3 p.m. the next day."

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