Elijah Jackson, a convicted felon who served just 13 years of a 27-year sentence for attempted second degree murder in the early 1990s, is going back to prison, this time on a conviction for transmitting a picture of his erect penis to his 15-year-old cousin over Facebook messenging and attempting to lure her for sex. Jackson is 51. He will be categorized as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
A jury of three women and three men deliberated all of 20 minutes at the end of a one-day trial Tuesday in Bunnell (not including jury selection on Monday) to find Jackson guilty on both third-degree felony charges. He faces from two to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 10.
The case hinged on Assistant State Prosecutor Melissa Clark proving that the man writing sexually explicit messages to the girl, setting up video chats and sending her the picture was, in fact, Jackson. Jackson, through Alex Smith-Johnson, his attorney, maintained that he was not the one sending the messages and that someone else must have hacked his account. Overwhelming evidence gathered by Flagler County Sheriff’s detective Darrell Butler, including 469 Facebook messages between Jackson and the girl and over 200 pages of IP-address verifications suggested otherwise.
In two pre-trial motions the prosecution sought an order to have Jackson’s penis photographed while erect, claiming it could match up distinctive features between the Facebook picture in the prosecution’s possession and the picture it would have ordered. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins denied the motion when the prosecution did not make a convincing enough case as to what, specifically, it was seeking.
So Clark relied on existing evidence. “You can literally go one by one and see that those IP addresses match up,” she told the jury, holding a stack of more than 200 pages of documentation showing where Jackson was sending his messages from–his phone, while staying with his girlfriend of many years: it was from her house that he’d sent his penile selfie.
“He groomed her,” Clark told the jury, “the conversation gets more sexually explicit as time goes on,” with Jackson describing in detail how he wanted the girl to give him oral sex in the car and what else he wanted to do with other parts of her body.
In his closing to the jury Smith-Johnson professed incredulousness that Jackson would engage in seductive chatter with his minor cousin while living with his adult girlfriend of 12 years. “He’s also sending for no reason at all messages to a minor, at the same time, that doesn’t make any sense,” the defense attorney said, a claim that may have left any juror even vaguely familiar with the wiles of adulterous infatuation incredulous.
Smith-Johnson called it a case of “connecting the dots.”
He never disputed that the girl had been the target and victim of a person’s inappropriate advances, but kept maintaining that it was not Jackson even as he conceded that he had no evidence that Jackson’s phone or Facebook account had been hacked. “When you’re talking about the lack of evidence, what don’t we have? We don’t know what happened to Elijah Jackson’s Facebook profile,” the defense attorney said, though it appeared that Jackson had diligently and systematically erased his online imprint, unlike the girl, whose phone produced a significant amount of incriminating evidence.
To prove the second count–that Jackson was luring the girl for sex–the prosecution had to show his intent to meet the girl, and produced testimony from the girl’s sister that Jackson showed up at a few school bake sales to see her, and looked for her at New Year’s in 2019. The defense claimed only the girl and her sister were aware of this, suggesting that they’d talked and made up the story.
Smith-Johnson concluded his closing with his most effective argument: in a sly, subtle jab at the girl’s own role in the story, he conceded that the girl was on the internet, that she was talking inappropriately, but that certain elements, including Jackson’s attempt to meet the girl or the fact that he was the man behind the Facebook account, had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. “We have dots that are not connected, and you’re being asked to connect them,” he told the jury, “and that’s not really your job. Respectfully, that was Madame prosecutor’s job, and she’s asking you to do that.”
But Clark had one beyond-doubt answer for the defense attorney’s theory: there were no actual video chats recorded, but there were at least two records of a plan or request for a video chat, which may or may not have taken place. Clark told the jury: if the man was willing to video chat with the girl, and the man was not who he said he was, wouldn’t the jig have been up? But both the girl and Jackson knew who was who. There was no hacking, no third person. There was no dot to connect. Jackson had connected himself too obviously to the girl.
The jury walked into the deliberation room at 5:05 p.m. A clerk said it had a verdict at 5:25 p.m. Jackson had sat more still and unresponsive than Alex Smith-Johnson, his attorney, from the time the jury walked back into the courtroom, daylight gone and a disordered drizzle falling outside: Smith-Johnson sat back, then forward, swiveled in his chair, rested his head on his left palm, then clasped his hands, Jackson all the while sitting still and eyeing the jury. He didn’t change expression when he heard the verdict. He seemed to say one or two words under his breath. Smith-Johnson put a hand on Jackson’s shoulder.
His victim, now 16, was in the courtroom, along with her sister and a victim’s advocate. Their reaction was muted. After the jury was polled, two bailiffs walked over to Jackson, removed his jacket–he had been out on bond, living the life of a free man until that moment–and placed him in handcuffs.
Jackson was convicted of attempted murder in Volusia County in 1993–the incident took place in 1992–when parole was still in effect, and was in prison until 2006. That information was not part of his two-day trial before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins this week, nor will it figure in his sentencing scoring sheet when he is sentenced on the two sex charges on Jan. 10.
He faces a minimum of 25 months in prison, according to the sentencing guidelines, and a maximum of 10 years in prison, should Perkins decide to impose the maximum allowable by law, and have Jackson serve the sentences consecutively. The judge may also impose a lesser penalty than 25 months–what’s called a downward departure from the guidelines–but would have to justify the decision.
Jackson previously turned down a plea deal that would have had him serve probation, no prison or jail time, but with the sex offender designation.
Only in America – serve less than half of sentence for attempted murder- that charge cannot be weighed in sentencing here- AND maybe gets another less than max sentence again! You gotta love the USA – criminal justice at its finest. Scumbag should be put away for another 25
A recently released convicted felon going back to prison for sexual assault against a minor.
Who would of thought ?
Does he still get to vote ?