Man found guilty of sex assault
by J.D. CHARLES, Staff Writer
Justice was swift on Wednesday when a jury returned with a guilty verdict in half an hour in a third degree sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.
Brandon L. Cox was arrested in 2005 and charged with having sex with a 13 year-old girl. The victim told a relative about the incident and they went to law enforcement.
Cox was scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Monday, but surprised everyone when he changed his mind after a relative convinced him to ask for a trial. Ironically, the relative was not present at the trial's end.
Cox was already serving two prison sentences on other charges and would have faced no extra jail time had he agreed to plea. He would have been required to register as a sex offender for five years and receive a misdemeanor charge. Instead, he will face 1-5 years on a new felony charge and will be required to register as a sex offender permanently.
The trial itself was unusually short, consisting of one day of testimony from the defendant, the victim and law enforcement officers. On the stand, Cox denied having sex with the victim, who is now 16. In 2005 he told police the girl initiated the act and gave him consent.
Wednesday morning, Judge Perry gave the jury legal instructions about verdicts, facts and evidence presented in court. Perry said the burden of proof was upon the prosecution and that the state had to prove Cox was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Perry said consent is not a defense in a third degree sexual assault case where the victim is under the age of 16, mentally impaired or under the influence.
During his closing arguments, Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham said the case ca,e down to one simple thing: Age plus sex equals guilt. Abraham said the law states that if there is an age disparity greater than four years, or if a person is under 16 years of age, a crime has been committed. In September of 2005, the victim was 13 years old and Cox was in his 20s.
"It did not matter that the victim was almost 14," Abraham said. "The law says 16 years old is the cutoff.
The victim testified that Cox came into her room and climbed into bed with her and had sex, Abraham noted, adding that Cox basically said the same thing to the West Virginia State Police in 2005 "except he said it was her idea and she was coming on to him."
"That smooth double talk may have worked on a 13-year-old girl, but it doesn't work in this courtroom today," Abraham said, accusing Cox of lying on the stand when he denied having sex with the victim, which contradicted his signed statement to police.
"This was a 13-year old child, and you can't have sex with a child," Abraham said.
Abraham said when Cox realized his backside was on the line "he changed his story."
"The bottom line is he had sex with a 13-year-old girl," Abraham said.
Defense Attorney Mark Hobbs argued there was no physical evidence proving Cox had sex with the girl, and that Cox was going through a child custody battle with the girl's sister. Hobbs said statements the girl gave to hospital staff when she was examined did not prove his client had sexual relations with the girl, and pointed to a time discrepancy on the report when the incident occurred. "There's a big difference between two weeks and three days," Hobbs noted. "That's a red flag."
Hobbs argued police did not believe the girl's testimony so they charged Cox with third degree sexual assault (unlawful carnal knowledge) instead of first degree sexual assault (rape).
"Someone made the determination she did not tell the truth," Hobbs said, arguing that Cox may not have even read the second page of his statement to police where it stated he had sex with the girl. Hobbs said the psychological component of the gun, badge and uniform of police might have intimidated Cox into signing an untrue statement. He also noted that none of the interview with Cox was taped.
Hobbs reiterated there was no physical evidence in the case, "just words," and most rape cases involve physical evidence. DNA testing was available in 2005 but not done. Hobbs said the custody case with the girl's sister could be a motive for allegations against Cox, noting the sister was not even called upon to testify in the case because she was allegedly asleep when it happened. Only the jury could determine how much weight to give to Cox's testimony, Hobbs said, noting his client cooperated with police.
During rebuttal, Abraham said Cox admitted to police the incident occurred on Sept. 10, and said physical evidence is often rare in rape cases as many victims wash immediately or wait for days to report such incidents. The local hospital does not gather evidence either, he added. Abraham said when Cox was asked on the stand if the custody matter had a bearing in the case, Cox said "no."
At 10:50 a.m., the jury was sent out to deliberate. By 11:22 a.m., they had a question for Judge Perry. Just eight minutes later, they had reached a guilty verdict.
Abraham said Cox is currently serving a prison sentence.
"He was accused of a rape in 2003 and he got two sentences of 2-10 years for malicious assault during the commission of a felony," Abraham said. "The parole board turned him loose and he was let out in 2005. He was charged with domestic battery and his parole was revoked on that sentence. The jury may have looked upon him with sympathy, but they had no idea of his previous sentences which show a repeated pattern of behavior. This is his second felony conviction."
Cox will face sentencing on the new charge at a later date.
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