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Montgomery County Jail, Facebook

Ex-Virginia Tech linebacker Isimemen Etute has been acquitted of murdering a Tinder date that he believed was a woman.

Etute, 19, was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2021 beating death of Jerry Smith, 40, of Blacksburg, Virginia, on Friday.

The jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning a not guilty verdict on Friday.

The jury found the defense’s “gay panic” argument believable that Smith deceived the young athlete into believing he was a woman named “Angie” before the two met for oral sex.

After engaging in oral sex, the two men had anal intercourse. Etute said Smith kept the lights off in his apartment and hid his face during their encounter.

The athlete said Smith paid him $50 for the date. But Etute stopped texting Smith after he heard rumors around town that he might be a biological male.

Smith texted Etute about a month later, asking him to bring friends.

Etute said he went back to Smith’s apartment on May 31, 2021, to find out whether he was a male or a female, police said.

The linebacker groped Smith and used his phone’s flashlight in the darkened apartment to get a better look at Smith’s face.

After confirming his suspicion that Smith was a male, Etute punched him five times and kicked him when he thought Smith was reaching for a gun, according to his defense attorney.

Police said Smith had a knife hidden under his mattress, but the prosecutor said he would have been unable to reach it.

As Etute left Smith’s apartment, he heard “bubbling and gurgling” sounds coming from Smith but did not call police.

After the jury announced its verdict, Etute cried and hugged his defense attorney. Smith’s family quickly left the courtroom.

Etute’s family, who prayed before the verdict was announced, also left the courtroom.

The gay panic defense has been used successfully in other murder cases. But it is banned in some jurisdictions.