A 31 year old man indicted for raping an eight year old boy between November 2012 and March 2013 stood trial and was convicted by a jury Tuesday, July 1 in DeKalb County Criminal Court.
It took the jury of six men and six women only half an hour to find Jose Juan Reyes guilty on the charge of rape of a child. Although they could have, the jury imposed no fine. Judge David Patterson, who presided over the trial has set a sentencing date of July 28 for Reyes. He will remain incarcerated without bond until that hearing, either in the DeKalb County Jail or the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
According to Gary McKenzie, Deputy District Attorney General, one of the prosecutors in the case, Reyes could be facing up to 40 years in prison for this conviction. "He is looking at a range of punishment and it begins at 25 years and goes all the way up to 40 years. The maximum he's looking at is 40 years. One thing about this charge if you are convicted it is a 100% sentence, which means if he gets a 25 year sentence, he has got to serve 25 years. He will not be eligible for parole. I am very pleased with the verdict. I think the jury did an outstanding job of listening to the proof and all the evidence in considering it and returning a verdict," said McKenzie.
WJLE was the only media present covering the trial
According to McKenzie, Reyes was a trusted friend of the boy and his family prior to this incident and he had been renting a room in the home of the child's aunt. "Jose was an acquaintance of the aunt. Somehow there was a friendship. He asked to rent a room and it kind of went from there. It (offense) occurred at the aunt's home, which was off the McMinnville Highway in DeKalb County. That's where it took place," said McKenzie.
The child, who has just turned ten years old, testified Tuesday that he was at his aunt's home when Reyes committed the act while the two of them were alone in Reyes' bedroom.
Although the child did not immediately report the incident to his aunt, he did relate it to his grandmother later while at her home. According to the grandmother's testimony Tuesday, "He came to me upset. I told him I believed him. I confronted Jose but he denied it. He (Reyes) cried and begged saying he would not hurt him (child). I said yes you did," she testified.
When the boy's mother learned of the incident, she took him to the sheriff's department to report it, according to the grandmother.
Mike Billings, who was a detective for the sheriff's department at the time, testified that after meeting with the child and his mother, he contacted the Department of Children Services and later went to Reyes' home. "The sheriff and another detective and I went there and knocked on the door. He (Reyes) opened the door and said I know why you are here. He (Reyes) said he knew of the allegations made against him," he said. Reyes was then taken to the sheriff's department and mirandized (read his rights). According to Billings, no interpreter was needed to communicate with Reyes because he spoke in English.
During his testimony, Billings read a statement which he wrote down as Reyes verbally gave it to him. In the statement Reyes allegedly admitted to putting on a condom and committing partial penetration of the boy.
As a result of the investigation, Reyes was indicted in April 2013 for the rape of a child.
Reyes chose not to testify during the trial.
In his closing remarks to the jury Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong said Reyes violated the trust of the boy's family and stole his childhood. "He (Reyes) was a trusted friend of the family. He fostered and grew that relationship with his victim. He gained his trust and friendship and for what? To satisfy his own desires. He used that friendship and trust to destroy the childhood of a young man and he'll (child) never get that back," said Strong.
Allison West, Assistant District Public Defender, said the state had not proven its case of rape. In her closing comments to the jury, West said the boy himself described the incident as "touching" and that is not "rape". Touched, ladies and gentlemen. That's (the child's) words. That is not rape of a child. Rape (according to the statute) is unlawful sexual penetration. There is no testimony here today of penetration. There is no testimony (from the child) that this happened. There is testimony that contact happened. Touching. Sexual contact is an entirely different statute and an entirely different crime than the one that is charged and that the state says happened here today. Again, looking at the law, aggravated sexual battery is unlawful sexual contact when the victim is less than 13 years of age. Ladies and gentlemen, if the state has proven anything at all here today through the witnesses they have put on, it is aggravated sexual battery. It is not rape of a child," said West.
In response, McKenzie told the jury that the state had shown that the child was raped by Reyes. "He (victim) did not say "touch". There is one thing he (Reyes) wants more than anything else in this courtroom and that is for you to lessen his responsibility. Do you think that applies to our victim? Do you think there is some way we can lessen the hurt that occurred to that little child? Don't lessen his (Reyes') responsibility and don't let misleading statements in front of you about what the victim said help do that. Listen to the (judge's) instructions and what he will say to you is that "Sexual penetration" is "however slight". You have the victim in this case telling you what he did and you have the defendant's own words of what he did and both of those things mirror each other. They're both describing the same event," said McKenzie.
During the child's testimony Tuesday, a "utility dog" was brought in the courtroom to be near the youngster and put him at ease. McKenzie said it was the first time for such a practice in this judicial district. " Some refer to the dog as a therapy, utility, or facility animal but the purpose for the dog is when you have a child that young on the witness stand and they're having to relive such a traumatic event, having the dog there helps that child focus his attention on the dog and allows the child to open up and be able to talk and answer questions that are asked to him. That's very important. He (child) did a really good job of opening up and Assistant D.A. Strong and I are very pleased to be the team to have utilized the dog for the first time in this district," said McKenzie.
The child also drew praise from District Attorney General Randy York for his courage in testifying. "I am very pleased with the verdict. In these kind of cases, I'm always impressed with the overwhelming courage that is displayed by a young victim to come forward, take the witness stand, and look the jury and defendant in the eye and say this is what happened. I am also impressed with the work of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department including Sheriff Ray and (former detective) Mike Billings and the work that Assistant D.A. Strong and Deputy D.A. McKenzie did. Finally, let me say this was the first case in the history of this district where we had used a utility dog. I think it's the second case in the State of Tennessee. I'm pleased with the work of the Child Advocacy Center and Jennifer Wilkerson. It all comes together and I'm really satisfied with the result," said General York.
"We were pleased with the investigation of the sheriff's department to get all these details together which made such a strong case and I think that's why we had a verdict that came back so fast," added McKenzie.
In addition to this conviction, Reyes faces a rape charge involving another young child in a separate case along with charges of criminal exposure to both victims to HIV.