Married mother, 13, in media spotlight Politicians seize on story of teen who wed man, 29

September 30, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

At age 13, Tina Lynn Akers was too young to consent to have sex with anyone, but she was not too young to marry her 29-year-old boyfriend and father of her child, and therein lies a legal twist.

That twist, and some front-page attention from a national newspaper, have placed Tina, now Mrs. Compton and mother of 3-week-old boy, her family and various politicians running for office into the media spotlight.

Hours after the story of the marriage of Tina, a seventh-grade dropout, and Phillip Wayne Compton Jr., a roofer, landed on the front of the Washington Post yesterday, the girl had signed a contract with "The Montel Williams Show" in which she promised not to talk to reporters.

Her father's modest basement apartment in the Eastport section of Annapolis was packed with television news crews and print reporters.

Across town, incumbent Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee was fending off charges by his Republican challenger, Richard Trunnell, that he was soft on prosecuting statutory rape. A few blocks from Weathersbee's office, Robert P. Duckworth, clerk of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel, also running for re-election, was calling on legislators to revise the state marriage law "to protect our children."

Anne Arundel police have begun investigating whether Compton committed statutory rape, and Weathersbee said he might yet prosecute Compton.

But authorities could do nothing five weeks ago to stop the two from getting married in an Annapolis court house.

Maryland law defines statutory, or second-degree rape, as sex with a child younger than 14 by a person four or more years older than the child. But it also allows children under 16 to marry with the permission of one parent or guardian and certification by a doctor that the bride is pregnant. Tina was pregnant and her father had given permission for the wedding.

"She got pregnant, and her and Wayne wanted to be together and raise the baby," explained Aubrey "Steve" Akers, 47, surrounded by lights, television cameras and reporters. "She was too young to get married at 13, but considering the situation, I gave consent because I figured that was the best thing to do."

He said he doesn't want Compton to go to jail.

"It wouldn't accomplish anything," said Akers, who fathered a child when he was 17. "At least right now, he's helping with the baby and trying to make a living."

The Comptons and their son, Austin, have moved to Tazewell, Va., where they are living with Tina's mother Nancy McCary. All three said they signed contracts with the "Montel Williams Show" yesterday and could not answer a reporter's questions.

The couple were married Aug. 24 in a chapel in Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse. Tina's father attended the ceremony.

"When we saw the age, the alarms went off," said Robert P. Duckworth, clerk of the Circuit Court.

But after Sharon E. Aulton, the assistant chief deputy clerk on duty that day consulted with a judge, Weathersbee and the state attorney general's office, she agreed to perform the ceremony.

"The [marriage] law needs to be fixed," said Duckworth, who would not let a reporter speak with Aulton. "The problem here is that, while well-intentioned, it does not protect children."

Trunnell, the Republican nominee for state's attorney who has accused Weathersbee of being soft on career criminals, criticized him for being slow to prosecute Compton on a charge of statutory rape.

Weathersbee asked police to investigate the case last week, four weeks after the clerk's office called his office about the marriage, said Officer Carol Frye, a county police spokeswoman.

"For the state's attorney to be cavalier about it and dismiss it from the beginning is appalling," Trunnell said.

Weathersbee defended his handling of the case, saying he is waiting to see whether police can provide enough evidence that a crime has occurred before deciding whether to prosecute.

"Of course we're not soft on this," he said. "We always prosecute this crime if we can."

His office prosecutes six to nine statutory rape cases a year, Weathersbee said, usually with the victim serving as a witness for the state.

"It is not only illegal but immoral for a 29-year-old to have sex with a 13-year-old," Weathersbee said. "It's just wrong, and we prosecute it."

He and Trunnell agreed that the General Assembly should revise the marriage law.

The Circuit Court does not compile statistics on the age of people who get married, but, according to Duckworth, fewer than 20 marriages over the past eight years have involved people 16 and younger.

A week before Tina married, Tina's brother, Aubrey Jr., 18, married a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant, according to Dawn Akers, Tina's sister.

Dawn Akers, 19, said Tina is too young to make major decisions about her life.

"She should be in school, getting an education and trying to get a good job, trying to make a better life for herself, instead of being tied down," said Akers, mother of a 10-month-old boy. "You're stuck for the rest of your life, tied down taking care of that baby. I'm glad I had my son. I love my son to death, but I didn't plan it."

Most teen-age girls do not consider the consequences of having unprotected sex, said Rosetta Stith, principal of the Paquin School for Expectant and Parenting Adolescents in Baltimore, a nationally recognized program.

"The sad part is their brains don't develop as fast as their hormones do," she said. "She doesn't realize what she is giving ** away."

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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