Police station rape case goes to jury

Defense, prosecutor spar over investigation of charge against officer

January 23, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

The defense attorney ticked off a list of perceived holes in the investigation of a Baltimore police officer on trial for rape.

Why hadn't detectives ever talked to anyone at the hospital where the woman said she had gone and was turned away right after the alleged rape?

Why hadn't detectives, when they searched Officer Jemini Jones' home for dirty police uniforms that might have contained evidence, entered his bedroom or emptied his laundry hampers?

"If you're looking for evidence, do a thorough job," Janice L. Bledsoe said in her closing argument yesterday.

"Would I have liked a better investigated case? Absolutely," the prosecutor responded in her rebuttal closing.

But the detectives were "investigating one of their own," Assistant State's Attorney JoAnne Stanton told the jury as those detectives watched from a courtroom bench, and they had the "mindset that this woman is lying."

Today, the jury is set to resume deliberations in the Jones case. Yesterday, jurors requested an easel to use in the jury room.

Jones, 29, is accused of coercing a woman to have sex with him to avoid being taken to jail on drug charges.

The woman, now 23, says the encounter took place Dec. 27, 2005, at the police station house in Southwest Baltimore after she was taken there in handcuffs. Jones and other officers reported spotting her in a parked car with a marijuana cigarette called a blunt.

The Sun is not naming the woman because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime. She reported her claim to police internal affairs less than 24 hours after it was to have happened.

Jones testified last week that there was no sex and that his interaction with the woman was "strictly professional."

His defense attorney says the woman had agreed to help Jones investigate a drug operation and that she made up the sex story so that others in the operation wouldn't question why she had not been taken to jail on charges of possessing marijuana.

In two hours of closing arguments yesterday morning, the prosecutor attacked Jones' story and the defense attorney attacked the woman's.

Bledsoe said the woman's statements to police and then on the witness stand had inconsistencies. And Bledsoe said the younger female friend of the alleged victim, who testified that she heard Jones discuss sex, also gave different accounts at different times.

"This is what happens when you mix drugs and life," Bledsoe said, noting that both women admitted to being daily marijuana smokers. "You distort reality."

Stanton defended the alleged victim.

"She is real, people," Stanton said. She said the "minor differences" in her statements could be attributed to the fact that "every step of the way, somebody's telling her, `You're lying.'"

In her opening statement Jan. 11, Stanton told jurors that detectives only began thinking that the woman could be telling the truth when they found 40 condoms in Jones' desk drawer, precisely where the woman said Jones' had retrieved one before their encounter.

When he testified, Jones said the woman could have seen the condoms, which he said were a gag gift from a friend, when he opened the drawer to put his police handgun inside.

Stanton said it was Jones who couldn't be believed.

"The defendant had the opportunity to listen to everybody in court" before testifying, Stanton said. He "weaved this story thinking that the fabric was just perfect."

But Stanton said it made no sense that a woman who was arrested on simple marijuana possession charges would tell Jones that she was part of a significant crack cocaine distribution ring, as Jones said she had.

"Don't buy into this myth that he is a good police officer," Stanton said, pointing to Jones.

Jurors never heard from any other police officer who was working with Jones the night the woman says she was assaulted.

Two of them, Brian Shaffer and Steven Hatley, are to face rape trials of their own after Jones. They are accused of helping Jones orchestrate the encounter with the woman.

And Jones faces another rape trial after this one.

In that case, which emerged after the December 2005, report, a woman accused Jones of making her strip and have sex with him in October 2005 at her boyfriend's house during what was to have been a drug-related search.

The woman said Jones threatened to take her to jail if she didn't cooperate.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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