Teen acquitted of rape, guilty of assault
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.