Footballer Nile Ranger cleared of rape
Former Newcastle United footballer Nile Ranger has been cleared of rape, following a week-long trial.
The 22-year-old, who now plays for Swindon Town, had denied the charge, claiming the woman had consented to sex at a hotel in January 2013.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the woman had agreed to meet him after the pair had swapped a number of messages.
The player told the court he had never engaged in sexual activity with a female against her will.
During the trial, the jury heard Mr Ranger and the woman had met in a city centre bar and gone on to different clubs before eventually booking into the Carlton Hotel, in the Jesmond area of Newcastle.
Giving evidence, the woman said she had no memory of the night beyond the bar where they met, until she woke up naked next to the footballer in bed.
The jury took an hour to reach their not guilty verdict, after which Mr Ranger banged on the glass door of the dock and said: "Thank God for that."
He then thanked the jury and, as he removed his tie, said "What a joke" before leaving court with friends.
Previously, the trial had heard that after spending the night with the woman, the player told her she should take the morning after pill.
She left and they continued to swap messages that day, the court was told.
She then visited her GP, was checked at hospital and made a rape allegation to police.
After being arrested Mr Ranger told police the pair had sex more than once and that she had engaged "whole heartedly" and "enthusiastically".
The court heard they had been messaging for a year before the incident, with the player repeatedly trying to meet up with her.
This had led the woman to refer to him as a "predator" and "Nile Ripper" in some of the texts they exchanged, the jury learned.
Mr Ranger made no comment on leaving the court but his solicitor, Geoffrey Forrester, said the footballer was delighted with the outcome.
During the trial the jury heard about trouble that Ranger had been in previously.
This included serving an 11-week sentence in a young offenders' institution when he was 15 after he took part in a street robbery.
Growing up in North London, he mixed with an older gang and also had convictions for burglary and handling stolen goods in 2007.
While giving evidence, Mr Ranger said his rape arrest was "one of the main reasons" his contract was terminated with Newcastle United.
The player told jurors he was about to be transferred to Hull City on loan from Newcastle when the rape allegation was made.
He said his contract with the club, and the loan arrangement, ended after his arrest.
He then moved to League One side Swindon Town where, he told the court, he had enjoyed success on the field.
The Wiltshire club said: "At this point the club is not making any comment."