|Sentence disparity in similar sex cases|
|The Press - News|
|Written by The Press|
|Thursday, 03 November 2011 09:42|
Criminal cases arising from sexual activity with minors are unfortunately not uncommon in Baker County.
The victims are female and the defendants male in the vast majority of cases, and the accused vary in age from teenagers up through middle age and above.
Three such cases found their way onto the circuit court docket in recent weeks — all involving then minor age males having sex with girls. Two of the girls were 13 years of age and the third 14.
The cases have common elements, and the law takes a dim view of sexual predators of all ages, particularly when victims are so young. Florida has stiffer penalties for molesting children under 16 because the law presumes they are not capable of giving consent.
Despite the similarities, the sentences handed down in each of these cases differ significantly.• Joshua McCoy, now 18 but a minor when he was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old 7th grader at Baker County Middle School, pleaded no contest on October 23 to twin counts of aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony.
Judge Phyllis Rosier sentenced him to five years in prison, followed by a similar term on probation. Mr. McCoy, then a junior at BCHS who had moved to the Sanderson area from Augusta, GA three months before the incident in January of this year, has no prior criminal past.
A pre-sentence investigation by the state came up with two recommendations the judge ignored: two years in a youthful offender prison or four years on sexual offender probation.
• Ray Charles Cooley III, 19, of Macclenny pleaded on October 18 to a single count of aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony and was sentenced by the same judge to 364 days in county jail followed by three years on probation. He must also undergo psychosexual counseling.
Mr. Cooley, also a BCHS student, was arrested for committing a sex act with a 14-year-old girl in an abandoned trailer near Sanderson in March of this year. He has a prior record of burglary and the state dropped a petty theft charge as part of the plea agreement.
As in the case of Mr. McCoy, the state originally filed charges of lewd and lascivious molestation, which carries a more severe penalty of up to 15 years in prison, but later downgraded them to aggravated assault with a maximum of 10 years per count.
• Last week the court set a November 22 sentencing date in the case of Aaron Wayne Taylor, 22, for violating probation in a 2009 case where he was charged with repeatedly having sex with a 13-year-old, the sister of a friend.
Mr. Taylor, of Glen St. Mary, was given five years of probation in June of that year for the offense that occurred between March and May of 2008.
Court records show the state violated his probation for missing seven sessions of psychosexual counseling as ordered by the court. He also told his probation officer he was not seeking employment, another provision.
Why the disparity in sentencings?
Assistant state attorney Ralph Yazdiya said it’s a matter of differing circumstances from case to case.
Sometimes that means the family of a victim is content with probation instead of jail or prison, as in the case of Mr. Taylor after it was learned that the baby born to the girl in December, 2008 was not his.
In the case of Mr. McCoy, the prosecutor said, the victim’s family sought the five-year sentence, half of what Mr. Yazdiya said the defendant could have received for the two counts. On the other hand, his sentence guideline score was 19-20 months.
“He [Mr. McCoy] didn’t fit the profile of a sexual offender, so I wanted to be consistent with other cases and drop the lewd and lascivious to aggravated battery. I’ve done that before,” explained the prosecutor.
Rodney Gregory, a Jacksonville attorney who defended Mr. McCoy, declined comment this week on the relatively harsh sentence, explaining he was exploring ways to re-address it before Judge Rosier.
His client, according to court records, aspires to be a musician and played in a church musical group in Augusta, where his family still resides. In addition to his clean criminal record, he had no academic or disciplinary problems during the short time he was enrolled at BCHS.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 16:09|