No Innocent Bystander Defense in Florida Forced Sex Case

When sex crime and other criminal cases involve more than one defendant, it can be tough to establish who committed what crime. That’s often made more complicated by co-defendants who turn on one another and blame each other for committing the crimes. A recent case out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal makes clear that courts look at “innocent bystander” defenses with quite a bit of skepticism.Mr. Henry and another person where charged with robbing four teenagers at gunpoint and then forcing them to engage in multiple sex acts with each other. The teenagers – three boys and one girl – were smoking marijuana and playing cards in an abandoned house when Henry and his friend arrived and joined in. The other man pulled a gun, ordered the victims to put their stuff on a table, told the girl to take off her pants, and then used a pencil to penetrate her vagina, according to the court. Henry and the other man took turns holding the gun while directing the victims to perform various sex “scenes,” the court said. A third man eventually arrived at the house, confronted Henry and his friend and told the victims to leave.

Henry was convicted of four counts of false imprisonment, three counts of robbery and 17 counts of sexual battery with a firearm. He later appealed the sexual battery conviction, arguing that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that he performed a sex act, instructed any of the victims to perform a sex act or that he threatened or pointed a gun at any of the witnesses. He likened the situation to that in Lovette v. State, a 1994 cases in which the Florida Supreme Court scrapped sexual battery charges against a man involved in an armed robbery who was not in the room when his co-defendants committed sexual battery.

The Fourth District disagreed. It noted that each of the four victims said Henry was involved in the crime. All four referred to the people who forced them to perform the acts as “they” and one specifically said Henry instructed them to perform the acts. The victims also testified that Henry laughed with the other man throughout the incident, took turns holding the gun, and helped clean up the crime scene.
Henry “was more than merely present; he was a participant,” the court said. During the time that Henry wasn’t holding the gun, the court said the other man was acting in furtherance of a common plan.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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