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James McDevitt Pleads Guilty as Charged of Rape, May Face Up to Life in Prison for Flagler Beach Attack

| April 16, 2015

James McDevitt just before changing his plea to guilty today in circuit court. (© FlaglerLive)

James McDevitt just before changing his plea to guilty today in circuit court. (© FlaglerLive)

There will not be a trial in the case of James McDevitt, the 22-year-old Palm Coast resident accused of raping a woman in Flagler Beach in June 2013.


At the legal last minute–a matter of days before his trial was scheduled to start–McDevitt pleaded guilty as charged to one count of rape with violence before Circuit Judge J. David Walsh Thursday afternoon. McDevitt reversed his not-guilty plea as his family and supporters watched in the courtroom. He was immediately designated a sex offender, and will keep that designation the rest of his life.

Sentencing will follow a hearing on May 29 at 10 a.m. at which both the prosecution and the defense may present witnesses before the judge. There will be no jury. In the interim, there will be a pre-sentencing investigation that may mitigate the severity of the sentence.

McDevitt had until this week faced two counts of rape with a deadly weapon, life felonies each, and could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. The amended charge was one count of rape with a weapon, which still exposes him to life in prison. According to the state’s calculation, because he only has one prior misdemeanor for theft on his record, his minimum sentence would be 10.5 years, his maximum would still be life in prison. The judge will decide.

McDevitt, a graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School, has not seen a day’s freedom since his arrest on June 14, 2013. He’s been held at the Flagler County jail on $100,000 bond. “He’s ADHD, he doesn’t read well and he doesn’t comprehend well,” Michael Lambert, McDevitt’s attorney, told the judge just before the plea, though McDevitt told the judge he attended a year of college. “I do believe that he understands and appreciates what is going on here today,” Lambert said.

Walsh asked McDevitt a few questions to ensure he understood the proceedings, the details of the plea and the rights he is entitled to.

“Are you guilty of the offense as set forth?” the judge asked.

“Yes, sir,” McDevitt answered, speaking softly, in a voice sounding younger than his age, and standing next to his attorney.

“And you are entering that plea agreement voluntarily today?”

“Yes, sir.”

The plea deal means that McDevitt and his attorney had concluded that the evidence against McDevitt was too strong to risk going to trial. That evidence includes a somewhat harrowing 911 call from a partial witness of the assault. Juries can be particularly susceptible to such immediate and audible evidence–and juries in such cases tend to be harsher than what plea agreements with the state attorney can issue.

According to the victim, whose account was summarized in police reports, McDevitt attacked her twice that early morning in June. The first time, he did so in front of one of two friends he’d spent the evening with.

The woman, an on-and-off resident of Flagler Beach, had spent the evening with friends at a barbecue in Flagler Beach, then gone to Finn’s, the bar, until 1:30 or 2 the next morning. She took a walk on the beach, then walked up to A1A at South 14th Street, walking south on the way back to the house where the barbecue had been hosted. She was not well: she’d been weeping over a broken relationship.

James McDevitt entering the courtroom Thursday afternoon, with his attorney, Michael Lambert, looking on from the right. McDevitt pleaded to a 15-year prison term. (c FlaglerLive)

James McDevitt entering the courtroom Thursday afternoon, with his attorney, Michael Lambert, looking on from the right. McDevitt pleaded to a 15-year prison term.
(© FlaglerLive)

Two men were standing near a van, one of whom approached her to ask if she was OK. She said she was and walked on, but told police that the man then “grabbed her and threw her to the ground” violently, and got more violent after that, pressing her face to the ground, then allegedly forcing his penis into her mouth. This, according to the woman, was taking place in a dirt alley between A1A and Central Avenue.

The attacker, according to the police report, was McDevitt. When he tried to kiss the woman, she bit him in the face, and did so, she told authorities, because she thought she was going to be killed, and she wanted to leave a marker, an identifying form of evidence that would link the assailant to the incident.

McDevitt had been with a friend, Sebastian Gutierrez, and a third friend, that evening. The woman told police that she heard the voice of another man pleading with McDevitt to stop what he was doing, though Gutierrez would tell police that he didn’t think McDevitt was assaulting the woman. McDevitt told him to go tend to their other friend, who’d apparently been ill. After that initial assault, the woman got up and walked north, knocking on doors for help, though she said when she tried to get away from McDevitt he grabbed her and dragged her into an empty lot, where the second attack took place.

That, according to the police report, is where McDevitt ripped off the woman’s undergarments and raped her—an attack that a man who lives across the street from the lot started witnessing when he was walking his dog. That’s the man who called 911—after he went into his house and back out with his cell phone–describing what he though was the assault to the dispatcher as it was happening, and prompting police to rush to the scene, though it took a few passes before police picked out the right spot. Only when lights were shined on the scene did McDevitt get up and run away. He was soon apprehended.

The woman was in tears when cops got to the scene, with dirt inside her mouth, around her lips and embedded in her nostrils, according to a police report, and she kept repeating that McDevitt “choked me,” and that “he raped me,” her language getting more bitter and her accusations against McDevitt unflagging.

In his interview with police, to which he agreed after the incident, McDevitt claimed the encounter had been consensual, and that the victim liked it rough. He told police in an initial interview at the Flagler Beach Police Department that he’d agreed to walk the woman home because she was crying and had been beaten up, and that during their walk, she bit him in the face, but he decided to keep walking with her because, he told police, he “has a soft sport for women.” He said she pushed him to the ground at some point, and as they approached the empty lot she suggested they have sex there. When McDevitt saw the vehicle lights he said he ran because he thought it was the woman’s friend, and that her friend was “trouble.”

The courtroom Thursday was full, though not just because of McDevitt’s docket sounding: more than two dozen such cases were on the docket. But more than half the people in the audience were there for McDevitt, including family and friends, siblings and his mother, Lisa McDevitt—the long-time director of the Flagler Auditorium—and Kim Carney, the Flagler Beach city commissioner. Carney led a support campaign behind the scenes for Lisa McDevitt, raising money, pleading for prayers, and in one case, writing FlaglerLive, saying, “If you find it necessary to do a story, please remember the family and friends that are going through hell. IF you want the real story we will help you.” In that email, Carney named the victim and sought to discredit her, while charging, with no evidence, that “the case is being used to promote a totally useless Victim’s Advocate system in Flagler County,” and that “the District Attorney is asleep and only wants a conviction.” (After this article posted, Carney wrote FlaglerLive: “This email is to serve as written notice that you are NEVER to call me for a comment about ANYTHING in Flagler Beach again.” Carney ended the email with a sexually-laced slur.)

A few days ago another round of pleas for prayers was telegraphed through social media, suggesting that more intense negotiations for a plea were afoot.

Walsh was hearing other cases, Lambert called out Lisa McDevitt and her supporters, who then went out of the courtroom. When most of them returned about 20 minutes later, Lisa McDevitt, who’d initially sat in the front row, sat toward the back when her son spoke his guilty plea. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly said she had not returned to the room.)

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30 Responses for “James McDevitt Pleads Guilty as Charged of Rape, May Face Up to Life in Prison for Flagler Beach Attack”

  1. Anon says:

    Can someone please let Commissioner Kim Carney know that victim blaming is inappropriate? Her comment proves the need for a victim’s advocate system.

    • Lena Marshall says:

      she needs to learn how to separate her personal life from the life of Politics, she is absuing the system
      I am sorry this man needs to go to jail, and some mental or manager help.
      Then to learn how to respect women, disgusting.

  2. Joey says:

    I find it absolutely disgusting that the commissioner goes to a trail where a woman was raped, and uses the opportunity to bash a victims group. Are you kidding me, you absolute coward? It’s disgusting that an official would victim blame a rape victim.

  3. Kendall says:

    Seriously showing a lot class and leadership, Ms. Carney. It’s perfectly understandable for a family to want to believe in and support their family member. But what Carney, an elected official has done is beyond the pale. Then to double down when called out?? Wow!! Wonder how she would feel if the victim were her daughter or sister or friend.

    • Katie Seamore says:

      Or even it were herself. I agree with Kendall, this is beyond the pale and I hope people will remember when she runs for reelection again.

  4. Ralph Belcher says:

    I feel that the Flagler Beach Commission Chairwoman’s remarks to the media in that email were quite arrogant. Being the friend of the mother of the guilty party. Sure, I get that. The mother naturally supporting her son in the situation. Of course, I get that. But a public official discrediting a rape victim in the media/to the media. This is exceptionally arrogant. I’m very ashamed such remarks came from an elected official. Very ashamed. In the realm of rape no means no means no, no matter the state or status of the victim. We will accept nothing less from our leadership. Nothing less. She might want to find a storage locker somewhere to keep such personal convictions for safe keeping… not in the public.

  5. ZJ says:

    This is horrific, and brutal, and despicable. Then some folks get together for some twisted competition to see who can be the most inhuman. Blaming the victim so publicly was vicious, shameful and thoughtless.

  6. jennifer says:

    People’s lives are ruined. A lot of them, why has flaglerlive always been about politics. This is such a shame. My heart goes out to all parties involved. This is a tragedy, who cares about the back and forth talk. Someone’s son is going to prison, someone’s daughter feels violated.

    • Kendall says:

      No Jennifer. Someone’s daughter WAS violated. The perp pled guilty today.

    • Joy says:

      well said

    • Jon Hardison says:

      “Feels”? What does that even mean?
      I know Lisa and have met members of her family. I can’t imaging how hard this must be for them and my thoughts are with them, but this was a crime. There’s a big difference between feeling violated and being violated. I don’t think it’s fair to muddy those waters.

      • Kendall says:

        Well stated, Jon. While the majority of my empathy and concern is for the victim, I also know Lisa and feel for how this has affected her and her family. But nobody should ever feel that sympathy for a victim and the family of the perpetrator is mutually exclusive.

    • Ricangirl says:

      Someone going to prison your first comment… Shows more concern for the assailant, the rapist , the perpetrator, the criminal , the POS! Someone feels violated ??? Someone was violated , raped , forced to sexual acts in alley by force face to the ground eating and breathing dirt , beaten and clothes ripped off ?? Feels violated ??? She was RAPED!!!! You don’t know how that feels don’t you dare minimize his actions or her trauma.

    • JimBob says:

      Are you suggesting McDevitt is a victim of political prosecution?

  7. THE VOICE OF REASON says:

    “he doesn’t read well and he doesn’t comprehend well,” Michael Lambert, McDevitt’s attorney, told the ”

    Yet he graduated high school. Kudos FPC.

  8. ET says:

    there needs to be a petition to remove this lady from her office. She is a disgrace to our city.

  9. a tiny manatee says:

    Sometimes campaign slogans just write themselves.

    Kim Carney: a commissioner a rapist can trust.
    Kim Carney: a vote for me is a vote for men’s rights.
    Kim Carney: it’s not rape, it’s a snuggle with a struggle.

  10. Enlightened says:

    God only knows how many women he raped before he got caught. I feel for his mother, but having a political friend point a finger at the victim is beyond comprehension. I hope they all get the psychological help they need.

  11. Rick Gardner says:

    @Jennifer Because this is news not some fluff you might find on Good Morning America. Keep up the good work Flaglerlive.

  12. Sexual Assault is a heinous crime regardless of where it happens, the age or gender of the victim, or what the victim was / wasn’t wearing. As a community, we need to speak with intelligence on matters we are familiar with and try and become educated on those items we are ignorant too. Victim blaming is NEVER acceptable and we need to combat the deeply ingrained assumption that victims are “asking for it”.

    Rape is a crime.

    Individuals who chose to rape must also receive the consequences of their actions.

    Flagler County is blessed to have victim advocates located at the Flagler Beach Police Department, State Attorney’s Office, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the Family Life Center. Victim advocates work tirelessly to provide comfort and support to victims at all hours of the day and night. There are many dedicated men and women who strive to make our community safer and more compassionate by giving of their time, treasures and talents to work with victims of crime.

    For those in our community who believe there is a useless victim advocate program or it is non-existent in Flagler County, I pray you never need our services…but if you do, we will be there for you.

    The Family Life Center provides free services to victims of sexual assault. If you are interested in learning more about what we do or how we can assist you, please give us a call at 386-437-7747 or visit our website at http://www.FamilyLifeCenterFlagler.org

  13. Jo So says:

    A guilty plea was entered due to the rape shield laws which essentially bar an accused from being in a position to properly defend himself. Think of this boy’s suffering and repression; think of the boy’s parents, and think of the impossibility of defending oneself given the possibility that the accuser is not as pure as the driven snow – any presumption of credibility cannot be attacked by the accused, while the accuser’s means of defense are at the mercy of the stifling victim protection laws that in this case would serve to prevent the accused from putting on any cohesive defense [consensual]. In a case like this the prosecution has used the accused’s legally proscribed disadvantage to advance their own agenda. When the rights of an alleged victim supersede those of an alleged attacker, only injustice will result.

    • Take a step down says:

      there is never an excuse to force yourself on anyone whether they are “pure” or not you should feel shame for this rant. However rest assured your alleged attacker will likely become a nameless faceless victim in the prison system then you will know the pain a true victim can feel. I feel no remorse for this mans plight he plead guilty there for he must hold some level of guilt. Even if its only his own

    • Lena Marshall says:

      No Jo so, is wasnt even close to be fairly or consentual, when someone chasing you down from street to street to have sex in an alley and sick his penis in his mouth.
      His mother or father should have given him better education on how to treat of woman.
      sorry for the man, but I know it hurts,

    • Kendall says:

      Oh Bullshit Jo So. Think about walking down a street, being grabbed by a stranger and having your face crushed into the ground. Then having a stranger shove his penis in your mouth. Then escaping and beating on doors begging for help only to have that same stranger drag you into a deserted lot, rip your clothes off and continue the RAPE. Imagine feeling that this is how your life is going to end and feeling so desperate that you bite the rapist’s face. Imagine hearing another voice but that voice does not bring help- it’s the voice of a coward that walks away and lets his friend continue the assault that may end your life.

      Then imagine being personally attacked and outed by a local politician- determined to protect and exonerate the rapist who happens to be her friend’s son.

      People like Kim Carney are the reason rape shield laws exist. It doesn’t matter what that woman was wearing. It doesn’t matter where she was coming from or where she was going. It doesn’t matter if she was a virgin or a prostitute. All that matters is that someone forced himself on her in a sexual manner without her permission.

      Powerful friends or longer local ties do not minimize the impact of an assault of any kind and they do not provide an excuse for a criminal act.

  14. Will (#1) says:

    Well said Trish Giaccone, on behalf of victims’ advocates AND to remind people of the good work of the Family Life Center.

  15. Ralph Belcher says:

    My dear Aunt Tatyana used to tell my Dad “Success in life, if you’re not careful, can lead to arrogance. And that arrogance can lead to failures.

    In learning of the remarks written by Mrs. Carney, the Flagler Beach Commissioner, my Auntie’s conversation from decades ago immediately came to mind.

    Each of us likely uttered something we should of, in retrospect, think through first. That might be one of those situations.

  16. Ashley says:

    As a Flagler Beach resident, I am utterly DISGUSTED that Kim Carney is serving our community with that mentality. She needs to be booted out of that position along with several others “serving” our community. My thoughts are with the VICTIM in this case.

  17. Jennifer says:

    [Comments are edited for liability and slander, or held back entirely. Be glad your comment saw the light of day. As it is, we are grateful you will not comment again. This is not your locker room. Thanks.–FL]

    What I wrote was not what was posted. It was edited and more than half of it was taken out of context to make my words twisted. Just beware before you post. How do you any of you know if I have ever been sexually assaulted before or not. Be mindful before you post about someone. Never again.

  18. YankeeExPat says:

    I think the commissioners’ behavior should be made public knowledge to all potential tourists to the Flagler Beach area. How would anyone in good faith want to promote a destination with supposed “Family Values” that chastises victims of the crime of rape? These little burgs like Flagler Beach are run like a fiefdom by political hacks. As I have told people for years … “DO NOT SPEND YOUR TOURIST DOLLARS IN FLORIDA”…….there are so many more deserving places to spend your cash!

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