James G. Cooke III, the 17-year-old Flagler Palm Coast High School student charged on Thursday night with a felony for allegedly making a video SnapChat threat of shooting up an unspecified school, was twice before charged with raping children, according to arrest records.
The charges date back to when Cooke was 12 and attending Buddy Taylor Middle School, but refer to separate incidents in 2012 and 2014. He was convicted in one of the two cases and sentenced to a diversion program in January 2015.
According to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Cooke was not on probation when he was charged Thursday over the SnapChat posting, a video showing ammunition and making a statement about being ready to shoot up a school. Cooke told authorities that it was just a joke.
In the 2012 case, a 3-year-old boy reported to his grandparents that Cooke “pees in his mouth,” and that he didn’t like it. The boy was interviewed by the child protection team and “was able to answer basic questions,” according to Cooke’s arrest affidavit. The boy told the forensic interviewer that Cooke was “mean to him,” that he hurts him, and that he also “put his pee pee in my butt.” The 3 year old told the interviewer it “happens all the time.”
The 3 year old statements were consistent with those he had made to someone else. Cooke was living with the victim at the time through a familial relationship. The issue was not immediately reported by the child. The victim’s mother sought counseling with the Children’s Advocacy Center when the child developed behaviors “consistent with a victim of sexual abuse,” according to the arrest report.
The victim told his interviewers that he did not want what happened to him happen to his younger brother. The victim, the arrest report states, “graduated from his therapy session [ion April 2014] after successfully learning the needed skills for coping with different emotions and implementing a safety plan for home.” The report also notes that the counselor wrote a Flagler County judge to express her concern, though the details of that concern are blanked out from the report. But she noted that the child had anxiety, and that it was warranted.
In the 2014 case, a 2-year-old boy who had just returned from visitations with his father complained of similar issues. The boy’s parent notified the Department of Children and Families, because she had experienced the same issues with the boy’s older brother. A physical exam at the Children’s Advocacy Center revealed evidence of rape. The doctor who performed the exam said the injuries observed “were caused by blunt force trauma,” and the doctor’s report was forwarded to law enforcement.
The 2-year-old child was not old enough to sit for a forensic interview. He was immediately enrolled in counseling with mental health specialists. But therapists, using bandaids on an anatomical figure made to seem the same age as the victim, saw the child point to the band aids “where he was hurt,” and disclosed to the therapist who hurt him. The 2 year old said he told his dad about it, and that Cooke got in trouble for it.
The 2-year-old child’s mother reported that he was having nightmares, would scream “stop,” and exhibit behavior similar to that of his brother after his brother had been sexually assaulted. Cooke, according to the report, denied all allegations when interviewed by a Flagler County Sheriff’s detective.
Sheriff Rick Staly was asked about the allegations of sexual abuse in Cooke’s background when Staly was on WNZF’s Free For All Fridays this morning. Staly at the time said he was not personally aware of the matter, but looked into it, and his office provided the reports of Cooke’s arrest. Later in the day, he spoke of serious concerns with the student’s history.
After his arrest Thursday, Cooke made statements that suggested self-harm, so he was Baker Acted at a psychiatric facility in Daytona Beach. He was to be turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice once his observation period elapsed. His father told authorities that the department could have him. He faces a third-degree felony for the threats posted on SnapChat.
Asked how Cooke could be in the school system with his previous record, a district spokesman said Cooke’s case could not be discussed due to privacy rules. “That being said,” the spokesman added, “students attending a Flagler County Public School are in compliance with state laws and school board policies, and with consideration of ensuring the safety of all students, faculty and staff.”
Based on previous history, the likely outcome of Cooke’s status in school, regardless of his case in the criminal justice system, is expulsion from school, and continuing education through a home-based, district-supervised program. His age being what it is, it is also likely that Cooke may complete his high school education in that setting. The district does not disclose students’ status, nor are disciplinary or expulsion hearings public.