State Loses Agg. Sexual Battery Case Mid-Trial Due to Lack of Evidence

A superior court judge found a defendant ‘not guilty’ on Monday midway through a trial for a charge of Aggravated Sexual Battery.

The decision came via a direct verdict, an extremely rare act in which a judge rules for the defendant after the state has rested but before the defense presents any evidence to rebut what the state has offered. 

Case Background 

31-year-old Dujon Mekel Aldred was arrested in January 2021 for an incident which reportedly occurred in the parking lot of Pinewood Manor on January 12, 2021. The accuser told detectives with the Statesboro Police Department that there was an altercation in the parking lot with the father of her unborn child. During the course of the altercation, Aldred kicked her in the stomach and “aggressively inserted his fingers into her vagina.” The woman admitted that she pulled and grabbed Aldred as well, and at some point during the scuffle, had him in a headlock. The order of events was not exactly clear, but post-incident interviews with the woman and Aldred both yielded the same story with the exception of whether or not the ‘insertion of the fingers’ was intentional. 

Aldred was arrested shortly after the incident and spent a little more than a month in jail before he was released on bond. He’s remained on bond for the last twenty-six months while waiting for his case to be adjudicated. 

Bench Trial

On Monday, he appeared in court with his attorney, Renatta Newbill-Jallow of the Public Defender’s Office, and with members of his family seated behind him. No one else was present in the courtroom. 

Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black prosecuted the case on behalf of the state, and presented four witnesses to the court in an attempt to prove the act of Aggravated Sexual Battery. The offense, which is a felony, carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The State Makes Its Case

On Monday, Judge Ronald Thompson heard from a responding officer, a part-time employee of Bulloch EMS, a SANE nurse who conducted a forensic examination, and a detective with the Statesboro Police Department.

Statesboro Police Officer Nick Davis testified that he assisted in responding to the scene on the night in question but did not collect evidence and could not recall whether or not he had any interactions with the alleged victim or Aldred. 

EMT Leon Moore testified that he responded to the scene to find a woman with vaginal bleeding and a woman claiming that her baby’s father punched her in the stomach and “aggressively inserted his fingers into her vagina.” Moore testified that the injuries were not life threatening and a pad or gauze-like material was applied as the bleeding was not severe. On cross examination, Newbill-Jallow asked Moore if he would be surprised to learn that the wounds were found to be superficial after the examination, to which Moore stated he would not because EMS does not traditionally examine the source of vaginal bleeding if the bleeding is not life threatening. 

SANE nurse Barbara Peacock testified about her forensic examination which was conducted in the Labor & Delivery department of East Georgia Regional Medical Center. Peacock did not render care since the woman was already under a doctor’s care and she was merely collecting evidence and conducting an exam. She testified that there was some injury to the woman’s vagina to the extent that markings indicated something ‘traumatic’ had occurred. 

Statesboro Police Detective Katie Reese also took the stand and testified about her interviews with Aldred, the accuser, and her timing to bring charges. She was cross examined briefly about her understanding of the woman’s role in the scuffle, including the headlock and whether or not the female was the primary aggressor.

Judge Thompson asked ADA Black if video of the incident existed since it took place in a parking lot, to which Black indicated video was captured on surveillance footage but the state did not intend to introduce the video into evidence. As a result, it was not tendered into evidence. 

Accuser Not Present for Trial

Noticeably absent from the courtroom Monday was the alleged victim in the case who was not present to testify. During the testimony of the SANE nurse who testified to what the woman told her on the night of the examination, Judge Thompson asked if the alleged victim was “unavailable.” Black told the court that the alleged victim was not present, had not been cooperative with the prosecution of the case, and had dodged multiple attempts to be subpoenaed for court. 

State Rests After Testimony from Detective 

After approximately one hour of combined testimony between witnesses, the state rested. The court took a brief recess so the defense could discuss whether or not Aldred would testify and at 11:00 a.m, court reconvened.

Motion for Directed Verdict

A Motion for a Directed Verdict was made by the defense. Newbill-Jallow asked the court to find the defendant not guilty because the state failed to make its case and prove that the altercation was for the purpose of sexual desire or that the act was intentional. 

“They’ve got to have more,” Newbill-Jallow said. “The victim is not here. Why have a trial if all they need is a SANE nurse, EMS, and a police officer? She pulled him, she grabbed him, she had him in a headlock.”

In opposing the Motion, Black said “beyond a reasonable doubt does not apply” and that the law does not require sexual nature as an element. “And I don’t not need a victim to put up a case.” 

When asked questions by Judge Thompson about whether or not the Court could consider justification or mutual combat, Black said there had been no evidence that the defendant was justified or in fear of serious bodily injury. “Intent is not required,” Black said. 

Directed Verdict 

“The burden is not on him [the defendant] to prove his innocence,” Thompson said. “I think the court’s got plenty of evidence about what happened and there’s a lot of evidence the court doesn’t have and I think it’s important to look at the context of this whole thing. I think it is pertinent to this case what the offense is, the chapter, the law, and the intent of the legislature. These are sexual offenses. I guess he could have just as likely been charged with assault and battery, battery, you know, those things. But looking at the context of everything, and the Court’s not trying to say this is not a serious matter. The Court’s not trying to say law enforcement did a bad job. None of that. It’s none of that at all. The Court has to look at the facts and what is presented and apply the applicable law.”

“The things we need to remember is the defendant enters into the case with the presumption of innocence and the presumption remains until we hit reasonable doubt. But not going that far, looking at the context, these people had a relationship. This woman was about to give birth and it’s a good thing that nothing happened to the child and the injuries weren’t any worse. That’s good. The court’s not taking any of this lightly at all. It’s very serious. It could have been a lot more serious. But we have to look at the law.”

“It appears that without any other evidence and the court’s not going to require the defendant to supply that evidence, it appears that the victim was the initial aggressor. And I’m not saying she’s wrong. And it could be that maybe he hit her, and whether he would take the stand and say ‘I hit her first,’ that’s irrelevant…They were clearly fighting. This was not a sexual encounter. This was two people in a relationship, fighting. He wanted to get his stuff, he wanted to leave. They were tussling.”

“You do have slight penetration, that’s true. And that’s all that’s required. You do satisfy that but there’s no other evidence that he had a lustful disposition, this was more like a mutual combat case, not a sexual encounter. And based on that, the court’s going to grant the motion [for directed verdict].

State Asks Judge to Reconsider

ADA Black was dissatisfied with the court’s finding and implored Thompson to reconsider. Before he began speaking, however, Thompson said, “The Court would further say that if the Court granted a reconsideration, without any other evidence, the state’s failed to meet its burden.”

“Well Judge,” Black said, “the state would ask the Court to reconsider. The state is only required to prove that he did intentionally penetrate the sexual organ of [accuser] with his fingers, a foreign object. Without her consent. We are not required to, this is not a…under Aggravated Assault or Aggravated cases as far as…all we’re required to show is penetration.”

Black continued, “We do not think that the defense of justification applies to this particular offense because the nature of it and where it is couched in the statutes. Furthermore, we feel like we have, in fact, proven, penetration by him against her. And also we feel like no sexual disposition or lustful disposition is an element required to be shown.” 

“The main goal of the state today would be to present the evidence. There is no man that’s going to sit there to say I was justified to punch a woman who is eight months pregnant and dig up in her vagina to injure her so bad that she has to be carted off by an ambulance. She won’t be here to speak for what happened to her so the state’s got to. And she won’t be here to speak for the child inside of her, the state’s got to. And that’s what our intention is to do.”

“We ask the Court to find him guilty of penetrating her sexual organ without her consent,” Black said.

Thompson’s Response

“I can reconsider it and deny it [the motion] but I’ll go ahead and tell you, he’s not guilty. Under the law, he’s not guilty. I’m not saying the state hasn’t done his job. You represented the victim and I’m not impugning anyone’s character or reputation or abilities. You’re both here doing your job. This is the legal system at work. But the court has to look at the evidence and the evidence..the court cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed that offense.  And we all know what the punishment is.”

Black replied, “We do. But you also consider ‘lesser includeds’ as well.”

“Based on the evidence that’s been presented, it was mutual combat. You rested,” Thompson said. 

“She’s an 8-month pregnant woman, laying on the sidewalk bleeding out,” Black said, as he contradicted the testimony of both the nurse and the EMT who testified that the bleeding was superficial and not life threatening. 

“I’m not saying the victim does not deserve our…sympathies. But again, the court’s not supposed to take sympathy into consideration,” Thompson replied. “For the victim or the defendant. It’s just looking at the context of what happened.”

“Absolutely,” Black replied. “It is the state’s position that we need to protect the ones who cannot protect themselves.”

“That’s the court’s finding. Any party is free to appeal,” Thompson said.

Irony of the State’s Argument to Protect Victims 

The irony of Black lobbying on behalf of pregnant women who purport to be victims of domestic violence is that Black prosecuted Ashlyn Griffin for Felony Murder in February 2022 for the July 2020 death of Brandon McCray. Griffin had been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of McCray for years and was pregnant at the time she shot and killed McCray in self-defense. Though a jury found her not guilty of Felony Murder, they did find her guilty of Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony and Black lobbied during sentencing for Griffin to receive the maximum sentence. She is now serving time in state prison, away from her two young daughters.

Other Sex Crimes in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit 

The track record of the District Attorney’s Office for sexual offenses in Bulloch County leaves much to be desired. The office has lost a number of cases, many of which involved defendants who were held without bond for years before their trials. 

Routinely, jurors have told TGV News after the trial that the state simply didn’t have enough evidence to convince them that a crime had occurred. In one case, a juror said, “If that guy is guilty, the DA’s office screwed the victim because they didn’t offer any evidence.”

In Effingham County,

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

1 Comment

  1. Well the judge felt the way I felt.
    The judge found for the Prosecution.
    The judge said the defense did not provide the proof of guilt. That’s how I saw it.

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