Three men on trial for sexually assaulting a teen at a party last fall pled guilty to false imprisonment Friday just before a judge was going to declare a mistrial because of a hung jury.
The trial of Jason Scott Turner, 22, of Evans; Robert Lincoln Levy, 21, of Augusta; and Tyler William Davitte, 23, of Martinez; started Oct. 31 The three were charged with aggravated sexual battery in connection to an assault, which occurred at a home on Shaw Street in Martinez.
The jury started deliberations Nov. 2 and was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting as of Friday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine said.
As Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet prepared to declare a mistrial, which would have meant a retrial, the men pled guilty to false imprisonment.
For the felony, which brings a punishment of up to five years in prison, Overstreet sentenced each man to 365 days in the Columbia County Detention Center followed by four years on probation.
“What has occurred at this thing (party) has put a black mark on this community,” Overstreet told the men after sentencing them. “You all have some time that you’ve got to make back to the community, the people involved in this thing. I seriously hope that you start paying back your community and doing something to build up the community instead of doing something to cast a doubt on it.”
Police received information Sept. 20, 2010, about underage drinking, drug activity and sex at a Shaw Street home in Martinez owned by Donald Everett “Trey” Morrison.
The investigation found that in August an 18-year-old girl was drinking at the home. Her friend passed out on the sofa while she reportedly went into a bedroom with one of the men.
Two others came in and sexually assaulted her, Columbia County sheriff’s deputies said. A friend beckoned Clayton Edward Blanton, 22, of Appling, into the room to record video with his phone. Before leaving, he woke up the victim’s friend to tell her what was happening in the bedroom.
“There is a slime, an ick-factor that hovers over that house,” Levy’s attorney, Jason Troiano, said during closing arguments Wednesday, telling jurors that a not-guilty verdict would not equate to condoning the behavior at the Shaw Street house. “I think we can all agree on that.”
The defense attorneys all argued there were holes in the case, including the victim’s lack of memory of the event and poorly documented chain of custody records.
Each man had to issue an apology to the victim and her friend as part of the sentence. “(The victim) has been through a lot,” Paine said. “The apology was important because it was them acknowledging that they were responsible for what they did.”
As part of a negotiated plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, Blanton pled guilty to unlawful surveillance in August. Overstreet sentenced him to 23 months in jail.
Davitte and Turner were taken into custody at the sentencing. Levy, who has already served nearly nine months, gets credit for that time.