James Edwin Harris, the 61-year-old owner of Jimmy’s Hang Ten restaurant arrested a week ago on charges that he’d been molesting his step-daughter, has filed for a motion to be released from jail on his own recognizance.
He’s been held at the Flagler County Jail on $50,000 bond on the second-degree felony charge of promoting the sexual activity of a victim younger than 16, and on no bond on the first-degree felony charge of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim younger than 12.
The charges appear to involve two different victims. They do not. One particular offense relates to an act Harris allegedly performed earlier this month, when the victim, now 14, was able secretly to capture him on video masturbating over her as she pretended to sleep. She had positioned her phone on her bedside, aware of what he was likely to do, as he had apparently done so many times before. The first-degree felony charge relates to acts he has allegedly performed on the girl since she was 10.
The motion for bond argues that he’s indigent and unable to post bond, and requests the court to release him “subject to the conditions that may be deemed proper.” In other words, the motion requests that he be released on his own recognizance. But he and his attorney–he is represented by Assistant Public Defender Regina Nunnally–will have to convince Circuit Judge Terence Perkins that there are grounds to release him despite the no-bond charge. Given the gravity of the charges, the judge is almost certain not to release Harris on his own recognizance, though he may set a bond–what’s more likely to be a high bond–for the first-degree felony charge. Each bond amount is cumulative.
Pre-trial proceedings can stretch over a year or two, depending on the path the case takes and the defendant’s decision to contest the charges or not.
The bond hearing is scheduled for August 2 at 1:30 p.m. before Perkins.
A friend had encouraged the alleged victim to document the incidents, leading to Harris’s arrest. Further details have emerged of his alleged behavior since his arrest was originally reported. The alleged victim revealed in an interview with the Child Protection Team on July 1 that, dividing her time between her mother’s house and her biological father’s house, Harris–when she stayed at her mother’s house–would go into her room frequently, naked, while she slept (or feigned sleep).
Incidents began when she was 10–she recalled an incident when he used her hand to gratify himself–and continued over the next five years, starting with Harris allegedly removing the blankets from her when she slept and fondling her under her clothing. ‘The molestation occurred so frequently” that the victim “began wearing a bra to bed every night,” an account of the investigation in Harris’s arrest report states. As recently as June 10, the girl reported, she had walked into the common area of the house only to find Harris walking around naked and accosting her, grabbing her and trying to kiss her when she attempted to walk away. She told investigators that the incident she had captured on video was actually a near-daily routine when Harris would walk into her room between 8 and 9.
Harris kept clothes in the girl’s bedroom, apparently as a tactical decoy: if the girl woke up, he would rush to the closet and pretend to be gathering clothes, she told authorities, though usually she pretended to be asleep out of fear of the consequences if he knew she were awake. She told authorities she’d not told her mother out of fear that she’d side with Harris.
It isn’t uncommon for children who are sexually abused to have such fears, or to be disbelieved by a parent or guardian.
Sheriff’s detectives acquired the video the girl had made secretly the morning of July 1, and could see distinct tattoos on the arms of the man in the video, along with a gold-chain necklace pendant, that were traced to Harris. The scene depicted in the video was identical to the one the girl described during her forensic interview.
The first-degree felony Harris faces is punishable by life in prison, if he is convicted. The second-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison. When faced with incontrovertible evidence, individuals in such situations tend to reach a plea deal and hope to lessen the sentence.
Harris as part of his arrest was ordered to surrender all firearms to the sheriff and to have no contact with the victim, whether direct or indirect, such as by speaking to her mother and conveying messages to her that way. The no-contact order does not apply to the child’s mother.