A jury in May found Etute not guilty of murdering his Tinder date, Jerry Smith, a 40-year-old gay man who presented himself as a 21-year-old physician named Angie Renee. The athlete’s legal team said Etute was acting in self-defense when he beat Smith, claiming Etute thought Smith was reaching for a gun after the man’s true gender was revealed.
Etute’s lawyer Jimmy Turk confirmed to ESPN on Monday that his client is set to play for Iowa Western’s 2022 season. Turk noted that it was difficult to find a school with Division I football willing to give his client a scholarship due to the highly publicized trial.
Since the trial, Turk has suggested that Etute is the real victim in the tragedy.
“Who is the real victim here?” Turk said through tears during closing arguments of the trial, Roanoke.com reported. “This was a wicked sexual ruse.”
Turk also told the jury Smith was a “deceitful and dishonest man” who “defrauded young men for his own sexual gratification.”
Etute and Smith linked up last year on hook-up app Tinder. Smith reportedly performed oral sex on Etute, then 18 years old, during their first meetup. Suspicious he was misled by Smith, Etute met back up a second time to try to find out Smith’s sex. After identifying Smith was indeed male, Etute repeatedly struck him in what would be a fatal beating.
Etute said he was acting in self-defense when he beat Smith, claiming he thought Smith was reaching for a gun after the man’s true gender was revealed.
Authorities said there was a knife found under a mattress, but Smith did not have a gun.
“This is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had as a lawyer,” Turk said following the verdict.
“I’m not in shock because it’s the right verdict, but always wondering and worrying about whether you convinced 12 people,” the defense attorney continued. “That’s always nerve-wracking. I’m just thankful for this jury. It is the right decision and right now I’m still just overwhelmed.”
Following the incident, a spokesperson for Smith’s family who requested to remain anonymous said they were “at a loss at everything that’s going on.”
“There are horrible stories out there,” the person said. “At the end of the day, no matter what he did or didn’t do, nobody deserves what he got. Whatever happened gives nobody the right to react that way. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t.”