Justin M. Wallace, a 21-year-old new Flagler resident, from Massachusetts, faces three second-degree felony counts of lewd battery of a minor who’d been visiting Flagler Beach with her parents. Wallace is being held at the Flagler County jail on $450,000 bond.
The alleged victim is 14, and the unlawful incidents are reported to have occurred in late July. Based on detectives’ investigation as reflected in their arrest report, Wallace allegedly pretended to be 16 and portrayed himself as such to the girl’s parents, who told him to stay away from her. But by then the encounters had already taken place.
The girl told authorities that the first encounter was against her will, while subsequent ones were not, though it is unlawful either way under Florida law for an adult to engage in sexual relations with a minor. The charges against Wallace amount to statutory rape.
Wallace’s subsequent behavior led to the girl fearing for her safety as he would walk shirtless by her living quarters, assuming it would have an effect on her, according to the arrest report. She had blocked him on her phone, refusing any contact. The girl told one of her parents of the encounters, which led to the investigation. Detectives made contact with Wallace, who, according to the report, admitted to the encounters and to walking around the girl’s dwelling. But he also repeatedly spoke “homicidal and suicidal statements towards himself, his family and the victim’s family,” causing him to be Baker Acted in addition to his arrest.
During his interview with a detective, Wallace spoke of having a 15-year-old girlfriend about to start high school–apparently the same girl–but said he had not engaged in any intimate relations with her. When detectives told him he was in custody for unlawful sex, he owned up, said he had made a mistake (if in more colorful language), and insisted he had never gone against the girl’s will. He then did what’s almost routine among adults who find themselves accused of similar charges: he blamed the alleged victim, insisted he had tried to tell her it was wrong, that he would get in trouble because of it, “but she would not leave him alone.” He said her parents disliked him. Nevertheless, he said it was “the worst decision of his life,” according to the arrest report.
If there is DNA evidence, it would not have been produced at the time of the arrest since a state crime lab would not have had time to analyze the evidence. The arrest report only states that the girl’s bedding had not been laundered between the time of the encounters and the arrest, suggesting that prosecutors would eventually be in possession of DNA evidence, making Wallace’s extrication from the charges far more difficult–even if his attorney manages to invalidate his confession (a rarity in Flagler). In such circumstances, a defendant is likeliest to plead and bargain for lesser charges, while prosecutors might go along if only to spare the victim from a trial or protracted trauma.
Wallace during his interview with detectives bemoaned the possibility that he would be branded a sexual offender for life. That, too, is looming over him absent a downgrade of the charges to felony child abuse–not uncommon in court locally: there’s been at least four such documented cases in Flagler court since 2018 (see here, here, here and here). But more severe consequences are also possible, especially when there are any intimations of forcible acts. The victim’s or the victim’s family’s preference of prosecution tends to play an outsized role.
Florida’s Romeo and Juliet law–which would obviate the designation of a sexual offender–would not apply in this case if Wallace were convicted: he is more than five years older than the victim, and one of the alleged encounters was not consensual.
“This brave victim came forward, reported what happened and if not for that, we would not have been
able to help,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in a release. He renewed his pledge to ensure that those who prey on children would end up in jail regardless of their whereabouts.
Dixie Rooster says
Expect many more crimes from all the northern runners moving down here. It most be a disease of the brain up north. Please inform those “northerners” that I95 goes North also.
Jay bates says
I went to school with him and he always went for the younger girls
So this is what’s moving to Flagler. GREAT more people and more pervs. He’ll get a slap on the wrist and be back on our streets…
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
There should be NO bond available to this creep.
Men please keep your masculine in your pants. Keep your pants zipped. You in your 20s she a teen less than 18, did you think you would get away with the wrong doing? Small head leading men has always been a problem, because they don’t think with the head people c. Truly hope he will get the punishment he deserves.
Lance Carroll says
Sounds like this guy is building a resume to run for elected office in Flagler County…