One of three menaccused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl has been found notguilty.

On Monday, a Queen's Bench jury deliberated for two hours before finding Jeffrey Chad Kindrat of Tisdale, Sask.,not guilty in connection with the 2001 incident that resulted in three men being charged.

There were gasps in the Melfort courtroom and Kindrat appeared overcome with emotion as the decision was announced at about 4 p.m. CT.

Kindrat, now 26,was accused of being one of three area men who got the girl drunk with beer andhad sex with heron a country road in September 2001.

Earlier Monday, Justice Ellen Gunn spentabout 2½hours reviewingthe evidence and instructing the jury on points of law.

Gunn cautioned against factoring in public opinion or sympathy in the decision-making process.

Gunn said after the girl, who is now 17,accused Kindrat at trial on Tuesday of sexually assaulting her, the defendant's lawyer, Morris Bodnar, claimed the girl had changed her story.

Judge cautions jury

Gunn referred to a statement the girl made at a preliminary hearing in 2002 in which she implicated two men as having sexually assaulted her. The girl did not mention Kindrat.

The judge told the jury that inconsistencies in testimony can indicate that a witness does not take the oath to tell the truth seriously.

Gunn made several references to a taped interview Kindrat gave to police in 2001, the day after alleged attack.

In it, he said he tried to have sex with the girl but could not because he had been drinking, and was not sure what his actions were. Kindrat also said in the taped interview that the other two men had sex with the girl, according to the Canadian Press.

Gunn told the jury that even if the girl wanted to have sex, she could not legally consent because of her age. Fourteen is the legal age of consent.

Kindrat would be culpable unless he believed she was older and took all reasonable steps to ascertain her age, she said.

The judge's final instructions were that the jury could find Kindrat guilty of sexual assault or common assault or not guilty of any charge.

Kindrat acquitted at first trial

The jury was then dismissed to begin its deliberations.

It's the second time Kindrat has beentried on the charge. The first time, in 2003, he and another man, Jeffrey Lorne Brown, were acquitted. However, the Crown appealed and new trials were ordered. Brown'ssecond trial is expected later this year.

A third man, Trevor Dean Edmondson, now 29, was convicted of sexual assault and received a two-year conditional sentence.

Testifying at Kindrat's trial last week, Edmondson said he kissed the girl but didn't have sex with her.

In the past, the case has had racial overtones, based on the fact that the girl is aboriginal and the three men are white. First Nations organizations and child advocacy groups were angered by the acquittals.

However, racedoesn'tappear to havebeen a factor in the current trial and wasn't discussed in front of the jury.