Local Bible School Teacher Arrested

Robert Russell Browning, according to a news report, was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on a warrant on August 4, 2018.  Browning was arrested for Lewd or Lascivious Battery (second degree felony), Lewd or Lascivious Molestation- Victim 12 years but less than 16, Defendant 18 or older (second degree felony), and Transmission of Material Harmful to a Minor to a Minor by Electric Device or Equipment (third degree felony).  Browning was employed at the Cedar Creek Christian School as a Bible School Teacher.  Some of the alleged events occurred on school grounds.  Cedar Creek has terminated Browning’s employment after the arrest.  The warrant had bonds set at $100,003.00, $100,003.00, and $50,003.00.

The arrest warrant affidavit and News4Jax article give details into the investigation as well as what lead to the eventual arrest of Browning.  The victim in the case is older than 12 years and younger than 16 years of age.  It is not known at this time if the victim attended the school or just the church.  The victim’s father discovered the inappropriate relationship when he went through his daughter’s phone.  Contained in text messages were nude photos and inappropriate text messages between the victim and Browning.  The father immediately contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to investigate.

The arrest affidavit gives details into what the victim described happened during the inappropriate relationship.  The victim stated that she and Browning had exchanged nude photographs to each other.  The two also “facetimed,” one another in the nude using the cell phones.  A forensic download was conducted of the victim’s phone to preserve evidence.  Further the phone number used by Browning was confirmed to belong to Browning.  The victim also was able to identify Browning’s private parts in one of the text messaged pictures.

Further into the interview with the victim it was discovered that the relationship with Browning was more than just text messages and video phone calls.  The victim stated that while on the premises of the Church, the victim had performed consensual oral sex on Browning.  While the victim was performing, Browning rubbed the private parts of the victim.  The download of the victim’s phone also contained text conversations between the victim and Browning discussing the two engaging in oral sex.

The State of Florida currently has three charges to prove against Browning.  There is always the possibility that the State of Florida may add additional charges if more evidence is discovered.   The first count, Lewd and Lascivious Battery is defined in Florida State Statute 800.04(4)(b).  That statute states a person commits lewd or lascivious battery by:

  1. Engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or
  2. Encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, prostitution, or any other act involving sexual activity.

Sexual activity is defined  as the oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual activity does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.

The State will rely on the victim’s statements as well as the text message conversations between the victim and Browning to prove element one.  Only one element is required to be proven, and the State of Florida likely will be able to show that the victim and Browning likely did engage in Sexual Activity together when the victim performed the oral sex act on Browning.  Also what is important to note, consent of the victim does not matter in regards to this Statute.  The fact that the victim consented to performing a sex act on Browning is not a defense.  This is based on the age of the victim.  In fact the statute even lists consent as a “Prohibited Defense.” (Fla State Statute 800.04(1)(2).

In count two, Lewd or Lascivious Molestation- Victim 12 years but less than 16, Defendant 18 or older the State of Florida will have to prove Florida State Statute 800.04(5)(c)2.  This statute states: An offender 18 years of age or older who commits lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years or age or older but less than 16 years of age.   Here the State of Florida will easily be able to establish the ages of both the victim and Browning.  Browning’s arrest report lists his age at 59.  This charge deals with Browning’s touching of the victim.  Based on the evidence released thus far, the victim’s word is what the State of Florida will rely on.  Clearly the State has text messages to back up other parts of the case, however the Affidavit does not detail whether the text messages obtained discussed Browning touching the victim.

The nude text messages and inappropriate facetiming between Browning and the Victim will be governed by Florida’s Obscenity Statutes.  Browning is currently charged with violating Florida State Statute 847.0138 titled Transmission or material harmful to minors to a minor by electronic device or equipment prohibited.  To prove this charge, the State of Florida must show that the defendant knew or believed that he or she was transmitting an image, information, or data that is harmful to minors, as defined in s. 847.001, to a specific individual known by the defendant to be a minor commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. “Known by the defendant to be a minor” means that the defendant had actual knowledge or believed that the recipient of the communication was a minor. “Transmit” means to send to a specific individual known by the defendant to be a minor via electronic mail.  The State of Florida will certainly confirm during its investigation the exact role Browning served at the Church.  Further if the victim was in fact a student of Browning’s clearly he knew the victim was a minor.

What is important to distinguish between counts the Lewd counts and the Transmission of Harmful Material to a minor is whether Browning truly knew the age of the victim.  The Lewdness statute clearly states: IGNORANCE OR BELIEF OF VICTIM’S AGE.—The perpetrator’s ignorance of the victim’s age, the victim’s misrepresentation of his or her age, or the perpetrator’s bona fide belief of the victim’s age cannot be raised as a defense in a prosecution under this section.  Even if a victim lies about his or her age is not a defense to a Lewdness charge.  This is a very tough burden to Defense Attorney’s when the evidence shows a “victim” lied about their age.  Clearly in the instant case there is zero evidence to show that the victim lied about her age and further, based on Browning’s employment, it will be hard for a jury to believe Browning did not know the age of the victim.

Browning certainly faces a tough defense coming forward.  The victim’s interview, the text messages, and his employment certainly seem like a strong case for the State of Florida.  If convicted of either of the Lewd charges, Browning faces up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.  In count three if convicted Browning faces up to five years in Florida State Prison and has the possibility of registering as a sex offender for life.  Browning will have to follow strict guidelines the rest of his life.  Further, if Browning violates any of the guidelines, he faces arrest for Failure to Register or Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Requirements in violation of Florida State Statute 943.0435.  Also Browning’s picture and profile will be posted on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Sex Offender Listing.

Have You Been Charged with a Serious Criminal Offense or Gun Crime in Florida?   

Please give the Forbess Law Firm, 904-634-0900, a call for a free consultation.   Our firm, as well as most other established North Florida criminal defense attorneys,  handles sex crime charges including Sexual Battery, Kidnapping, Lewd and Lascivious Battery or Molestation, Possession of Child Pornography, and Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, on a daily basis in Duval (Jacksonville), Nassau, Clay, Baker, St. Johns, Bradford, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam  and other surrounding counties.  Further, upon the arrest of yourself or a loved one, our law firm is always available to argue for a reasonable bond in First Appearance Court or a Motion to Reduce Bond on an outstanding warrant.  Our office is conveniently located within two blocks of the Duval County Jail.  Also we can travel to you or your family for a free consultation.  We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to represent you and your loved ones.



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