Teen ac­quit­ted of rape, guilty of as­sault

Maryland Independent - - News - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @An­drew_IndyNews

A teen male on trial last week to con­test al­le­ga­tions of sec­ond-de­gree rape was ac­quit­ted of that charge, but found guilty of sec­ond-de­gree as­sault against the vic­tim, a 20-year-old woman.

If he re­ceives the max­i­mum penalty, Travonne La­mont John­son, 17, of Wal­dorf could spend up to 10 years in prison for the in­ci­dent in De­cem­ber.

John­son is sched­uled to ap­pear in front of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Judge Amy Bra­gu­nier on Aug. 19 for a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing.

Dur­ing the trial last week, As­sis­tant States At­tor­ney Sarah Free­man told ju­rors to con­sider the ev­i­dence brought against John­son, which in­cluded pho­tographs of the vic­tim’s ap­par­ent in­juries, foren­sic find­ings, tes­ti­mony, and a se­ries of text mes­sages be­tween John­son and the woman.

Pub­lic de­fend­ers Edie Cimino and Courtney Dixon con­tested the al­le­ga­tions, telling ju­rors that the al­leged vic­tim fab­ri­cated her ac­cu­sa­tion af­ter she re­gret­ted hav­ing con­sen­sual sex with John­son.

On Dec. 3 around 1 p.m., John­son be­gan tex­ting the al­leged vic­tim, telling her to come over to smoke mar­i­juana, the woman tes­ti­fied.

She de­clined the of­fer sev­eral times be­fore he was even­tu­ally able to con­vince her, of­fer­ing to give her mar­i­juana for free, ac­cord­ing to pro­ceed­ings.

The woman ar­rived at the res­i­dence in the 1200 block of Ban­nis­ter Cir­cle in Wal­dorf around 1:30 p.m.

When she ar­rived, John­son led her into a bed­room be­fore he went up­stairs to re­trieve the mar­i­juana. When he re­turned, he was naked, she tes­ti­fied. She al­legedly told John­son that she did not want to have sex with him and tried to leave, but John­son re­port­edly grabbed her by the neck and threw her onto the bed, she said.

She tried to es­cape, but John­son al­legedly tripped her and forced him­self upon her while she was face down on the car­peted floor, break­ing the belt on her jeans dur­ing the strug­gle, ac­cord­ing to the woman. At the first op­por­tu­nity, she ran out of the house and went home where she told her sis­ter and a friend that John­son had raped her.

Po­lice ar­rived at the woman’s house shortly af­ter. Det. K. Klezia be­gan his in­ves­ti­ga­tion and took her to Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Charles Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter for an ex­am­i­na­tion.

Dur­ing the trial, Free­man called Paula Sim­mons to the stand, the nurse who con­ducted the Sex­ual As­sault Nurse Ex­am­i­na­tion on the night of the in­ci­dent. She tes­ti­fied that she ob­served a con­tu­sion and swelling on her neck, as well as abra­sions on her ab­domen. Ju­rors were pro­vided pho­tographs taken of the ap­par­ent in­juries.

Vagi­nal swabs were col­lected from the woman by the nurse, which later re­vealed the pres­ence of John­son’s DNA, Mary­land State Po­lice foren­sic sci­ence Tif­fany Keener tes­ti­fied.

“He is in­no­cent,” Cimino told ju­rors in clos­ing ar­gu­ments. “This young man did not rape [her]. They had been talk­ing. They started tex­ting ev­ery­day nearly.”

“There were no vagi­nal in­juries what­so­ever,” she con­tin­ued, adding that she be­lieved the con­tu­sion on the woman’s neck ap­peared old.

Cimino said the vic­tim was mo­ti­vated to fab­ri­cate the al­le­ga­tions be­cause she was scared of preg­nancy, peo­ple find­ing out, and she had been ro­man­ti­cally in­ter­ested in an­other man at the time, who she now is dat­ing, and he would have been up­set.

“She wanted to re­write his­tory,” Cimino said. “… So, she cried rape.”

“There are many rea­sons to doubt,” she added.

Free­man re­but­ted the de­fense, la­bel­ing Cimino’s ar­gu­ment as “ab­surd.”

“You saw the in­juries in the pho­tographs,” Free­man told ju­rors. “There’s no ev­i­dence that she con­sented to sex. Just be­cause there was no vagi­nal trauma does not mean there was ev­i­dence that this was con­sen­sual.”

Free­man pointed out that the vic­tim im­me­di­ately told her fam­ily that she had been raped and told her boyfriend the fol­low­ing day.

Free­man also read a se­ries of text mes­sages out loud to the ju­rors. In the con­ver­sa­tion, the woman de­clined to come to John­son’s house sev­eral times, and only agreed to come af­ter he of­fered her free mar­i­juana.

“You do not get a free pass be­cause you’re 17,” she con­tin­ued. “Those text mes­sages clearly show her in­tent on that day.”

Ul­ti­mately, the ju­rors con­cluded there was not enough ev­i­dence to sup­port a con­vic­tion of sec­ond-de­gree rape, but found John­son guilty of sec­ond-de­gree as­sault.

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