Mahaffey Man Denied Charges before Statutory Sexual Assault Conviction
October 31, 2012 at 6:00 AM by Jessica Shirey
CLEARFIELD – Before jurors convicted a 31-year-old Mahaffey man of statutory sexual assault, he testified Tuesday morning at which time he not only denied raping the 15-year-old girl back on Sept. 27, 2010, but also having any sort of inappropriate relations with her at any point in time.
James L. Turner Jr., 31, of Mahaffey was convicted of statutory sexual assault, indecent assault and corruption of minors after jurors deliberated for approximately one hour and 10 minutes. He was found not guilty of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with person less than 16 years of age. He remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail pending his sentencing.
During his testimony, Turner said he was ill with pneumonia on Sept. 26, 2010. In addition, he said his son was also suffering from the effects of Crohn’s Disease. He had decided to stay home from work for a few days.
That night, he said the girl arrived and they’d told her that they didn’t need her help caring for the children. However, he said the girl refused to leave and insisted on staying, because she had to meet her ex-boyfriend at 4 a.m. to collect some belongings from him.
He said at approximately 7:30 p.m., he had sexual intercourse with his wife, before she left for work at about 9:30 p.m. After she left, he put their children to bed with some help from the girl. He said his youngest daughter suffers from a sleeping disorder, and someone has to lie with her for a while.
According to Turner, his older children woke up, and he wrestled around with them and the girl for about 30 minutes. He suggested the girl sustained her bruises from wrestling around with them. Turner said he neither caused the bruising nor forced himself upon the girl.
At some point, he said the girl kicked him in the “privates’ and grabbed them. He told her, “Enough was enough” and ended the wrestling.
He said his youngest daughter had been sleeping upstairs in the couple’s room, where the girl went to sleep. He said the boys returned to their bedroom, and he slept on the couch with his oldest daughter. He said he went to sleep around 12 a.m. and never got into bed with the girl.
“I would never do that under any circumstances,” he said. Then, he said the girl’s testimony Monday was false. “It didn’t happen with or without force.”
Turner said he never removed the girl’s underwear and pants. He also said he never performed sex on the victim. Turner said he’d neither had any type of sexual relationship with the girl nor had he ever inappropriately touched her.
Later, he said the girl’s father had contacted him, as she’d accused Turner of forcing her to perform oral sex. He said the girl’s father advised him that she was going to contact state police and it would be in his best interest to go to the barracks.
Turner said he went to the state police and provided a statement to Trooper John B. Young on Sept. 28. He said he willingly returned the next day and submitted a DNA buccal swab to Trooper Randy Powell, the criminal investigator assigned to the case.
He said he denied any sexual acts and fully cooperated with state police. He said the only DNA that was collected came from his wife’s underwear, which the girl had taken and worn to the hospital and which ended up submitted with the rape kit.
“Anyone who knows me knows I would never commit an act like this no matter what,” he said.
Under cross-examination by District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. he agreed he was 29 years old at the time of the alleged incident at which time the girl was just 15 years old. He said they weren’t married and the girl regularly served as his and his wife’s babysitter.
He admitted that he trusted the girl with his children and enough to leave her home alone with them. He said he and his wife provided the girl with a family dynamic, since she didn’t get along with her mother and her father was an over-the-road truck driver.
Shaw asked Turner about his pneumonia to which the defendant said he felt “pretty shitty” on Sept. 26, 2010. He said his son who was suffering from Crohn’s Disease required constant attention.
“The victim offered to help. You’re feeling ‘pretty shitty’ and your son isn’t doing well. And, you told the victim to leave?
“And, you’re telling me, you had sex with your wife when you’re feeling so sick?” asked Shaw.
Turner said he did to both of Shaw’s questions.
Under cross-examination, Shaw also questioned Turner about why he didn’t feel it was relevant to include these things in his statement to state police. Turner said he went to clear his name, and at that point, it wasn’t the trooper’s business that he’d had sex with his wife.
Shaw pointed out that Turner had included in his report that he’d received a text message from the girl, while she was upstairs. She’d told him that she couldn’t sleep, because it wasn’t her own bed. He went upstairs for his pillow, and they began wrestling around on the bed until she kicked him.
During rebuttal, Shaw re-called Powell. He told the jurors that he’d interviewed the woman who lived in the same residence as the girl’s grandma. The woman told Powell that she wasn’t able to overhear the girl’s conversation with her father. She also told Powell that she never called the girl out about telling two, contradicting stories.
During his closing arguments, Taylor depicted the girl as a liar and manipulator who told “a number of different stories to a number of different people.” He said her story never remained the same, and she wasn’t a credible witness.
He questioned how the state police handled their investigation and suggested they didn’t even believe the girl. He said Powell didn’t execute a search warrant to locate relevant items in the case. He also said Turner wasn’t immediately arrested, and this didn’t occur for more than a year.
“The family doesn’t believe it actually happened either or they would have insisted that Turner had been arrested,” said Taylor.
Taylor said the girl stood in the kitchen after the alleged rape incident. He pointed out that she did not leave even with a door being just feet away and her mother’s home nearby.
“She isn’t this innocent 15-year-old girl like the commonwealth would have you to believe,” said Taylor.
He said the girl reached out first to two male friends, hoping they would come to her rescue. He said her grandma described her as happy about having sexual intercourse with Turner and she later asked her grandma to change her statement to police.
“This is about Turner – a father, a husband,” said Taylor, “The girl may be a liar. She may be a manipulator. But she isn’t stupid.
“The commonwealth wants you to believe that the girl was in such a state that she didn’t even understand consent.”
Taylor said that Turner’s wife wouldn’t have testified and defended him if she believed he’d committed the crime. He said she identified the underwear from the rape kit as hers, which she’d worn before and after she had sexual relations with her husband on Sept. 26, 2010.
“To find Turner guilty, you would have to believe the girl beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Taylor.
In closing, Shaw said this case was about a young girl who was sexually abused by someone she viewed as a father figure. During the investigation, he said some people polarized to support the girl; he said others polarized to support Turner.
He told the jury that Powell didn’t arrest Turner immediately after interviewing the girl, because he needed to conduct an investigation and collect DNA evidence.
Shaw said the girl didn’t scream for help, because there wasn’t anyone there other than her, Turner and his children. He said her father was a truck driver, and she didn’t have a close relationship with her mother.
“And, gee when she does tell, grandma doesn’t believe her,” he said. “So who is she going to tell? Who is she going to go to for comfort?”
He said the girl was victimized by someone important in her life and didn’t want to ruin their family and the special atmosphere of a home.
Shaw said that a rape kit examination is a traumatic experience, and the girl wouldn’t have put herself through that for no reason. He said the girl testified that she didn’t know whether or not Turner had ejaculated or used a condom.
“Don’t you think she would have used that to better craft her story?” he asked. “It’s not reasonable to believe that she made this up. What’s her motive? Why would she when this is her source of refuge?”
He told the jury that because the girl contacted police, she was painted as a liar and manipulator. She lost her place of employment and schooling and a home. He asked why the girl would report something that wasn’t true when the Turner family was so meaningful in her life.
“They want you to believe that she made up this gross story,” said Shaw. “You don’t grab someone by the throat and squeeze them by the hips during consensual intercourse. That’s force. That’s coercion. And, just because she submits, doesn’t mean it is consent. She told him ‘no’ and got bruises on her.”
He said it would be preposterous to believe that the girl dug out Mandi Turner’s underwear knowing it contained semen that would jump onto her vaginal area and travel all the way up to her cervix.
“It’s his DNA in her vagina. That’s the smoking gun,” he said. “How did it get there? There’s only one way, and that’s intercourse.”
Shaw also disputed the testimony of Mandi Turner. He said even if she weighed 115 pounds, she still wouldn’t wear large underwear. He said she polarized a story of convenience and often spoke over him and couldn’t answer simple questions.
Mandi Turner interrupted Shaw’s closing arguments from the gallery and said he didn’t allow her to answer the questions. She was removed from the courtroom for the remainder of the closing arguments.
Shaw said obviously, Mandi Turner believed the girl, because she “flipped out” on her husband over the allegations.
He said Turner’s story wasn’t believable, as he was sick with pneumonia yet engaged in sexual relations with his wife and turned away help from the girl. He said if it was compelling enough to be heard in the courtroom, it should have been included in his statement to the state police.
“But it’s your job to decide the facts,” said Shaw.