Claire* was 14 when Ian Bryce Davis, her uncle, 34 at the time, a violent felon just out of drug rehab but drinking again that night, slipped his hand over her private parts when he thought she was asleep. She wasn’t. She was spending the night at the Sea Breeze Trail house, with her grandmother and Davis, after homecoming at a Palm Coast high school.
When he left the room she told her grandmother, who did not believe her, and to this day does not believe her, standing by Davis, who also maintains his innocence. It isn’t uncommon for parents or guardians to disbelieve victims of sexual assault, especially children. It is almost routine for perpetrators of sex crimes to lie, especially within families–where child sexual abuse is most common–the act itself being a subversion of trust. But a jury last May believed her.
And today, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins listened to Claire and carried out her wishes almost to the letter, sentencing Davis to 15 years in prison, which he will have to serve day for day–without the chance for early release–followed by 10 years on sex-offender probation, and a lifetime designation as a sex offender, plus a prohibition on any contact with Claire or her mother, or with other minors.
The minimum mandatory sentence against Davis was nine years in prison, which he asked for, as did his attorney, Bill Bookhammer, along with five, not 10 years, on probation.
But either 16 or just turned 17, Claire delivered a victim-impact statement to the court this afternoon that may have tipped Perkins convincingly away from the minimum. With a Spartan directness and force rare for a teenager, she did not merely indict Davis, but also her grandmother for not believing her, and her pastor for tuning the blame on her, damaging her faith, her family relations and her psychological well-being, all before she had to humiliate herself over and over again as the case proceeded.
Her grandmother again testified today her disbelief of her granddaughter’s words. “I was the only person that was in the house that night it supposedly happened,” she began, immediately drawing an objection from Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark, who reviles having to put victims through trials, let alone what could be perceived as re-victimizing them with renewed doubt. Yet the grandmother continued along the same vein: “I apologized to the other members of our family, for what has happened, or that they feel has happened,” she said, before saying that as a mother, she would never stop loving her child.
Moments before, Claire had spoken.
“During the trial,” Claire said, reading from a prepared statement as she appeared by zoom (Davis, his attorney and the judge were in the courtroom), “the hardest part was being in front of Ian Davis, detailing not only what he did to me, but how he made me feel, all while he sat there watching and listening. I did not want him to know he had the power to make me feel that way. But I have realized that he is not the powerful one. I am. I had to overcome my embarrassment and my shame over and over–when I told my mama, when I told my therapist, when I told the investigators and again when I told the court.
“During the trial, I was slandered, painted to be a liar and a thief. I had to listen as it was said repeatedly that Ian and [my grandmother] loved me, which was almost cruel, because not only was I violated the night of October 19 . I was betrayed. This event was not a nightmare, but it made my life feel like one. I lost a grandmother and an uncle. The structure of my relationship with my dad changed. I had a pastor who I trusted tell me this could have been avoided had I done things differently. I began to push away my friends and my family. I struggled with my faith. And to this day, nearly three years later, I struggle with trust and intimacy. I still have nightmares, and I fear that nobody else in the world shares my humiliation of feeling so close to adulthood, but waking up to a wet bed because in my dreams, I could hear his voice and feel his hands.
“Ian Davis has taken my nights, my days, my relationships and my peace. I know no matter how long he gets, the minute his sentence is over, he will forget all that he has done. But a part of me will always carry this. So I ask that a sentence be a true and honest reflection of not only his crimes, but his impact.”
Bookhammer, Davis’s attorney, asked his mother to offer up characteristics about him that would inform the court about his qualities. She described him as “the best chef in the world,” and said the two of them were going to run a food truck together, as a n avid fisherman at the Flagler Beach pier, even as a man whom loves his family, though his record is riddled with domestic violence issues, including against his mother. She spoke of her failing health at 65, how he’d been supporting her, and her fear of not being alive when he’s freed, all as if his behavior had had nothing to do with erasing all that for years.
Davis himself doubled down, as is his right, maintaining his innocence–his case is on automatic appeal–and owning up to a checkered past, but not to this offense. He called the charges “appalling, to say the least,” and never mentioned Claire. “I do know again, a jury found me guilty. I can’t wrap my mind around how by any means. I just, I really can’t,” he said.
He said he was accused because of “complete and pure vengeful acts” resulting from what he described as “nothing short of a malicious plot that was promised to me from 2017 When I forced that family and evicted them from the home that I live in.” He then lied, claiming he wasn’t in the county when the incident was alleged to have happened, though his presence in the house was never in dispute.
Both Davis and his mother left silent a history of bad blood between them, including two occasions when he was jailed after she allegedly fabricated evidence against him to get her hands on cash he’d inherited–details that would have gotten in the way of the more merciful they needed today.
Bookhammer tried to mitigate the sentence, arguing that the attack was not “invasive” (there was no penetration). Factual though the argument was, it risked reducing the seriousness of a violation against a person to its phallic measure based on Matthew Hale-type (or Clintonesque) dissembling: to where the male member ends up, rather than to what a sexual violation by its own nature as a violation causes a woman or a girl regardless.
Perkins appeared to take no note, but for discounting the probationary years by five, though Bookhammer was on firmer ground when he argued another scabrous consequence of sex offenders’ fate in prison: they are brutally targeted in a prison system notoriously complicit for its indifference.
(*) Claire is a pseudonym.