May 20, 2022 update: A jury today found Ian Bryce Davis guilty on two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation involving his 14-year-old niece in 2019. The verdict Friday followed a four-day trial, including jury selection, before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins. Each of the second-degree felony charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when Davis, formerly of Seabreeze Trial in Palm Coast, is to be sentenced on July 18 at 3 p.m.
Davis is also facing a third-degree felony charge for allegedly assaulting a fellow inmate at the Flagler County jail on March 6. That case is still in the pre-trial stage, but may possibly get resolved by the time Davis is sentenced on the graver conviction.
Previous coverage is below.
Judge Rules Hearsay Evidence Admissible in Trial of Ian Davis, 37, Accused of Fondling 14-Year-Old Niece
April 8, 2022–Ian Bryce Davis, 37, has had a troubling decade: four charges of domestic battery and obstructing a cop in 2014, a battery charge in 2017, a conviction for disorderly drunkenness the same year, then a felony charge of aggravated assault the next, to which he pleaded, only to get in trouble again for violating probation and incurring new charges each of the last three years. Not least among them: two second-degree felony counts of molesting his 14-year-old niece the night after she’d been to the homecoming dance. He is scheduled for trial on those charges next month.
Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark, who is prosecuting the case, argued in court today that hearsay statements by the girl to her grandmother, to her guardian and to a Child Protection Team investigator should be admitted at trial. The statements illustrated the girl’s state of mind immediately after the alleged incident and a few weeks later. There are no witnesses to the allegation nor any physical evidence like DNA or an admission by the defendant. There is only the girl’s accusation.
Normally rules of evidence would exclude the statements. But in a sharp if unsurprising setback for the defense–Davis is represented by Assistant Public Defender Bill Bookhammer–Circuit Judge Terence Perkins this afternoon ruled that they would be admissible, after hearing testimony from the girl’s adopted grandmother, the girl’s guardian and biological aunt, and the Child Protection Team investigator. (The child’s guardian is married to the grandmother’s other son.) The ruling follows precedent.
The incident took place in late October 2019. The girl had gone to her grandmother’s house–not where she normally lives–after homecoming. Davis had just gotten out of drug rehab, where he’d been or six months. According to the girl’s statements to the Child Protection Team, she had marijuana with Davis (which would have been a violation of his probation), lying on the couch with him and watching television. They were a few feet apart on a long couch.
At 5 in the morning she ran into her grandmother’s room. The girl was distressed, in tears, and told her grandmother that Davis had fondled her breasts and sucked on her nipple when he thought she was asleep, and lowered her leggings and fondled her genitals over her clothes. Her grandmother told her she may have been having a bad dream, and said as much in court today.
“I said are you sure you didn’t have a nightmare?” she said she told the girl. “You had a traumatic night, you went to your first dance, you’re in a new school. You were watching garbage on television.” By “garbage” she specified that Davis and the girl were allegedly watching something “rated X” on television, an “adult cartoon.” So she kept asking the girl: “Are you sure it wasn’t a nightmare? I kept stressing that when she said, no, it wasn’t, he tried to touch my boobs.”
The entire case will hinge on those moments: the alleged incident on the couch and what the girl told her grandmother, then her guardian, then the Child Protection Team investigator. Without those statements, of course, there is hardly a case the state can prosecute. The girl initially did not want the matter reported and the family sat on it, not disclosing it to police. But the girl had a panic attack at school, spoke of the incident to a counselor, and the counselor by law was required to report it, triggering the investigation.
The prosecutor is seeking to have the video of the CPT interview played to the jury, with some redactions. The defense was concerned about the CPT interview’s leading questions or perhaps the coaching of the alleged victim. The judge didn’t see it that way. “She didn’t seem coached in any way,” the judge said. “She was very specific in her description of events, including context in which the events arose, right down to smoking marijuana, the smell of alcohol[Davis had apparently been drinking, too], the details of what actually happened, what didn’t happen, again, without any apparent exaggeration in her descriptions. I just thought in that respect it was credible. It was relevant. It was trustworthy, reliable testimony. And so from that perspective, I think it would be admissible.”
Bookhammer had also argued that the evidence was “cumulative,” the legal term for piling on, which is not allowed by rules of evidence, because it could be prejudicial to the jury. But the judge said the law allows the testimony to be used “for corroboration alone.” He didn’t see how that would cross a line into piling on. Bookhammer had also raised the issue of “bad blood” between Davis and the girl’s guardian–that the bad blood could have been a motive to get Davis in trouble. That didn’t get far, either. In essence, all the evidence the prosecution was seeking to introduce will be admissible.
Curiously, Davis himself had raised an issue of bad blood to the judge three years ago–between him and his mother, the girl’s grandmother. He did so in a letter to the court. He was again in jail for a probation violation. He claimed that his mother had it in for him. He told the judge it was the second time he’d been jailed almost immediately after his mother would find out he had a lump sum of cash, including money he’d inherited from his father. He accused her of fabricating evidence against him to get him in jail and take the money.
“She plays the victim, makes things up as she goes, and blatantly lies to get her way in any respect,” he wrote. “My brother and his family have done the same and told me that I need to get away from her before she has me put in jail again or killed because of her illness, addiction and lies.” He claimed every time he planned to move out, she’d call the cops on a pretext to have him jailed and keep him from leaving, though he’d also kept violating his probation, including failure to take part in a drug court treatment program.
Davis’s prior arrest history and his correspondence to the judge isn’t expected to figure in the trial’s evidence. Davis served a few months in prison last year on other charges. Bond was set at $50,000 on the molestation charges. He was jailed again last November on a probation violation. He has remained at the jail since.