Joseph Mueller trial

Joseph Mueller, left, sits next to his attorney, Scott Stinson, as District Court Judge John Brown gives instructions to the jury before closing arguments in Mueller's sexual assault trial Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

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A jury deadlocked Friday night in the trial of a California man accused last year of sexually assaulting a woman in Bozeman.

District Court Judge John Brown declared a mistrial after eight of 12 jurors found reasonable doubt in the case against Joseph Mueller, who law enforcement say kissed, groped and choked a woman in June 2020 after a night drinking at a Bozeman bar.

Defense attorney Scott Stinson argued that Mueller, who was in Bozeman on a cross-country trip after losing his job due to the impacts of the pandemic, got caught in an elaborate lie contrived by the victim to seek affection from her now ex-partner in their then-failing relationship.

“(She) has to look credible to her friends and family,” Stinson argued during his near 50-minute closing statement. “She’s in the rabbit hole and can’t get out.”

Prosecutor Bjorn Boyer asked jurors to believe the woman, who told law enforcement that Mueller attacked her during a meandering early morning ride home that she offered after meeting him at a downtown bar where she’d been drinking with friends.

“He didn’t ask for consent. He demanded that she do what he say,” Boyer said in his about 30-minute closing argument.

The decision from the jury came around 10 p.m. Friday after four days of arguments and testimony from law enforcement, witnesses who had been with the two the night of the alleged attack and people who spoke to the character of both Mueller and the woman.

Brown offered to release the deadlocked jury, comprised of 10 women and two men, to return for deliberations at a later date to resolve the impasse, but the jury concluded it would not come to a unanimous decision.

“Some might change their opinions, but there are also some absolutes,” a note from the jury to the judge read.

Mueller stood charged with sexual assault — punishable on first conviction by a $500 fine, six months jail or both — and aggravated sexual assault, which is punishable by four years to life in prison.

Boyer said in an interview after the judge declared a mistrial that he plans, “to talk to the jurors, or at least try to talk to the jurors, but my intention is to retry the case.”

Mueller, through his attorney, declined to comment.

The Gallatin County Attorney’s office has until Jan. 26 to decide if it will refile charges against Mueller, who remains bound by conditions of pretrial release to not travel from California to anywhere except Montana unless he receives permission from the district court, among other restrictions.

Brown also reminded Mueller of his order to not contact the woman.

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Bret Hauff is the Chronicle’s city editor. He can be reached at or 406-582-2647.

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