%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:; AUDIO:%)

DELAND, Fla. (AP) _ A psychiatrist was acquitted Thursday of charges he took advantage of a patient's multiple personalities by having sex with her.

A jury took more than two hours to reject what prosecutors argued was DNA evidence that proved Dr. Ronald Malave had sex with his patient.

Malave, 44, lowered his head in relief after the verdict was read and his relatives in the courtroom let out a joyous scream. He could have gotten 15 years in prison.

The 41-year-old woman alleged Malave had sex with her between 1994 and 1999 when she assumed the personality of ``Bridgette,'' a sex-crazed teen-ager.

Malave was charged under a state law that makes it a crime for psychotherapists to have sex with their patients. Prosecutions based on the law are rare.

Prosecutors argued that DNA evidence in the woman's underpants proved Dr. Ronald Malave had sex with the patient _ an allegation Malave denied.

The defense contended that the patient obtained traces of Malave's semen from dirty underwear in the trash outside his home and transferred it to her panties.

``Justice was served today,'' Malave said. ``I think it would have been served if I hadn't been arrested in the first place.''

He said that he hopes to resume his practice and that he doesn't hold a grudge.

The woman had no comment.

Prosecutor Raul Zambrano speculated that jurors might have been hesitant to convict Malave because of the patient's mental instability.

``Do I believe the victim? Yes,'' Zambrano said. ``The physical evidence was easy. The hard part was having a mentally ill patient and not knowing how she would act.''

Evelyn Grasso, the jury's forewoman, told the Orlando Sentinel that jurors found the woman's testimony to be sincere, but decided there wasn't enough evidence to convict Malave.

``I believe that she truly believes everything she says is true,'' Grasso said. ``It's a very, very unfortunate situation. It sounds like she's living a daily war within herself.''

Malave treated the woman in the late 1990s and said he stopped in 1999 when he began receiving obscene phone calls and sexually explicit gifts from her.