THREE DUVAL HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AVOID SEX CASES BY PLEADING TO MISDEMEANORS

Students Arrested Were 17, 18 and 19 Years of Age, Dodged a Sex Crime

According to a report, three male students at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville were arrested in April for having sex with a female student on school grounds.  The four students met up at a athletic field house on the high school campus.  One of the male students filmed portions of the sexual activity that occurred.  It appears the allegations came forth from the victim when she was being questioned about being late for class or asking for a “late” pass. Two of the young men went to the police station and were arrested.  Another young man was arrested days later.  They were all charged with Lewd or Lascivious Battery and also Lewd Battery with enticement of a person less than 16 years old to engage in any type of sexual activity.  A conviction of either charge would have devastated these young men with incarceration and the lifelong requirement of sex offender registration.  For several reasons, the State Attorney’s  office exercised discretion and reduced these charges to misdemeanors with probationary sentences.

Victim Originally Stated She Was Forced Into Sex Only to Admit Later it Was Consensual

As is common in many sex cases a person who the arresting officers and detectives determine to be a victim later recants his or her story.  In the above case, the female victim later stated the sex was consensual.  One of the young men had recorded the acts on his cell phone. That defendant also had an additional felony charge of “making/printing or publishing computer pornography” which under Florida Law is a third degree felony.  The young girl in this case was not of age to give or not give consent under Florida law; however, a supervisory prosecutor, after viewing the video contained on one defendant’s cellphone, determined that the young girl was not being forced into any participation by the three young men.  As the case unfolded, the video, the recording of which was an felony charge, seems to have helped all of the young men with the prosecutor’s decision to not bring the felony sex charges.

Sex Charges Can Surface Years Later

Under Florida law a person can be arrested for allegations of sexual misconduct years, even decades after the alledged behavior.  Most readers should be familiar with the multiple allegations against the popular comedian Bill Cosby.  Several women have brought up incidents from years past and at least once case is reportedly going to trial.  It is commonplace in Florida for a person with no criminal history to be arrested for sex crimes which supposedly occurred fifteen or twenty years prior.  The worst situation is Capital Sexual Battery, meaning, at the time of the incident, the victim was less than 12 years of age with the accused being over 18 years of age.  A person arrested on this charge is not entitled to a bond under Florida Law and is facing mandatory life imprisonment if convicted.  This writer has seen victims come forward with very old  allegations numerous times.  The motivation of the victim coming forward years later varies. It can be for “closure” as directed by their counselor or psychologist, the taking away of a 13 year old’s cell phone, refusing to let a rebellious 14 yr. old date the 16 yr. old who has his license and a car, the backing out of a promise to buy a child a car or truck when they turn 16, or mom is finally divorcing the stepdad.  Many times, other family members are aware of the allegations and families will try to just handle the matter internally without it getting out to law enforcement.

Yes, You Can Be Arrested Just on What Someone Says Years Later

Most people mistakenly believe that in these very old cases that no evidence exists.  It is the statements of the victim that is the evidence.  Obviously, years later there is no forensic evidence.  If the case goes to trial and the jury believes the victim, that’s certainly enough evidence.  The defendant and the defense attorney are tasked with proving a negative.  Sometimes other witnesses come forward alleging the same type of sexual misconduct and those witnesses are allowed to testify as “Williams Rule” witnesses to tell the jury about prior bad acts in order to show lack of mistake.  Sex Crimes detectives, if all they have are verbal accusations on an old event, will try to get the alledged perpetrator to sink themselves by use of a controlled phone call.  The detectives will coach the victim or another friend or family member, have the victim call the unwary, soon to be arrested suspect, and record a phone conversation where the intent is to have the accused make a confession, apologize or try to explain away the allegations.  Our office has had cases where one family member, years later, wears a law enforcement supplied “wire” to record another family member.

The Forbess Law Firm has defended sex cases ranging from date-rape allegations, child pornography, internet solicitation of a minor to engage in sex, capital sexual battery as mentioned above, and even incest and beastiality.  Florida lawmakers have made the punishment for sex crimes really brutal.  Life after prison as a designated sex offender or sexual predator carries rigorous conditions that commonly send the offender back to prison over and over again.  Between prison stints the best most of these offenders can do is live in a group home that passes a community’s 1000 or 2500 foot rule, attempting to keep the offenders away from places where children congregate.  Sex offenders can also be civilly committed indefinitely under Florida’s Jimmy Ryce Act, potentially holding them for life after they have served their criminal punishment.  If you or a loved one even thinks allegations of past sexual conduct could arise, our firm, 904-634-0900, and most North Florida criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations about such matters.