Man puts 'crazy' case behind him; rape charges dropped after he spent 7 months in jail

Robert Alan Bradshaw spent more than seven months in jail charged with rape before he was cleared by DNA evidence and released two weeks ago. (Staff Photo Illustration by Doug Strickland)

For more than seven months, Bobby Bradshaw sat in a Hamilton County Jail cell, thinking about how he looked from outside. The news stories called him a rapist and a military impersonator. His mugshot was splashed around the Web. He wondered how his tattoos -- the same ones his grandma doesn't like -- would play in front of a jury. He wondered what his family knew.

Then on March 2, prosecutors, citing the results of a DNA test, suddenly announced the rape and assault charges against Bradshaw would be dropped.

"At times it's still a little surreal," Bradshaw said.

Almost two weeks later, he's still looking over his shoulder. And he worries that even if the charges don't stick, the stigma will.

Bradshaw met the woman at Hair of the Dog, where he was working as a server, in late July. The Russian-sounding woman was flirtatious, he said. When his shift ended at 5 p.m., they shot a few games of pool at The Honest Pint and she had one drink.

Two days later, the woman told police that Bradshaw took her back to his apartment the night they met, pretended to be a Marine and brutally raped her.

He says that's not what happened.

"I think she just has lots of issues and I just happened to be the scapegoat that was there," Bradshaw said.

Nonetheless, Bradshaw was arrested and charged with rape, kidnapping, assault and aggravated assault.

At a preliminary hearing in Sessions Court later that month, a nurse testified that the woman had bruises on her fingers and arms and redness around her anus. The marks were consistent with the woman's story, but could be from either consensual or forcible sex, the nurse said.

Bradshaw eventually made bond and got out of jail. But when word of his arrest got back to Idaho, where he was on parole from a grand theft conviction, he ended up back in the Hamilton County Jail for violating his parole.

It was February before DNA results in the rape case against him came back from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

"The tests can definitely keep them in longer than what we would think would be fair, especially given the results," said Joy Radice, a defense attorney and associate professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's College of Law.

At the March 2 hearing, Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Longshore said there was DNA in the rape kit, but it excluded Bradshaw.

"It did not corroborate the victim's story," Longshore said.

Radice said that fact likely brought the woman's credibility into question and made the case impossible to prosecute.

photo Robert Alan Bradshaw, who spent 8 months in jail charged with rape before he was cleared by DNA evidence, is photographed Friday, March 13, 2015, in a downtown Chattanooga parking lot. Bradshaw was released two weeks ago. (Staff Photo Illustration by Doug Strickland)

"If the witness for any reason gives information that's contradicted by any of the rest of the investigation, it makes it really hard for the prosecution to move forward with the charges," Radice said.

Suddenly, Bradshaw was a free man.

"If everyone knew the whole story, they could make a movie out of it," he said. "It's something you couldn't write. It's too crazy."

For instance:

At the July hearing, the woman, speaking with a thick accent, testified that she had only lived in the country since 2008. But when Defense Attorney Brandy Spurgin visited her later in Warren County, where she was in jail for violating probation in another case, the accent was gone.

"The biggest red flag for me was learning that the accent was fake," Spurgin said.

The woman testified that when she met Bradshaw she was completing a drug rehabilitation program and living in a halfway house called Oasis. She testified she'd voluntarily entered drug court in Warren County. She also had an outstanding warrant for domestic violence charges in Citrus County, Fla.

Records show that in 2009 she pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, and in 2012 she was charged with filing a false report in a sexual assault case.

By drinking with Bradshaw she violated her probation, and was sent back to jail in Warren County.

The woman later said that on the trip to jail, she had sex with a Warren County deputy named Alan Roberts. In January, Roberts was indicted on a charge of unlawful sexual contact with an inmate.

The woman didn't return a call seeking comment for this story.

At the time of his Hamilton County arrest, Bradshaw also was on parole for a grand theft conviction out of Idaho.

"I was hot-headed, I was young, I was dumb," Bradshaw said.

When the local charges were dropped, so was the parole violation.

Bradshaw said he still believes in the justice system. He even supports the death penalty. He didn't like thinking about what could have happened when if he'd faced a jury, but it worked out in the end, he said.

"I'm glad it's over, for sure," Bradshaw said. "I don't know anyone in their right mind who wouldn't be."

Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at or 423-757-6347. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.