Leon Norman Wiley was on trial eight weeks ago at the Flagler County courthouse. He faced charges of raping his stepdaughter since she was 12 and bribing her mother to keep her from testifying. He took the stand eight weeks ago, surprising even the judge, and put forth an odd defense.
“Yes, I abused her from age 12 to 17, but as soon as we crossed the county line, it stopped.” At least not when she was a minor. It did resume when she was 18. Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark was paraphrasing Wiley’s words today, before adding that the claim that he’d stopped raping the child just because he was in Flagler was “outlandish.”
He had not only sexually abused the child. He had repeatedly impregnated her when they were living in Volusia County. The victim reported she’d gotten pregnant seven times over the course of their history, resulting in abortions all those other times. He would drive her to a clinic either in Orlando or Fort Lauderdale. A pregnancy when she was 13 was not terminated. She gave birth and raised her child. She also reported that in Flagler, Wiley would drug the victim and have one of his friends have sex with her.
Many of those details were not part of the trial. But the facts of Wiley’s repeated sexual abuse of the child were. After deliberating three hours the jury found him guilty on all counts, including a first degree felony and a second degree felony.
Wiley, 54, was back in court this afternoon, arguing for a new trial.
He wanted his attorney–Assistant Public Defender Regina Nunnally–to argue on his behalf that when the family moved to Palm Coast’s R-Section in 2015, he stopped abusing his step-daughter. If no crime had been committed in Flagler, he could not be charged in Flagler. The family had been living in Holly Hill previously.
Wiley faces two identical charges in Volusia County: raping a child younger than 16, a case Clark is also prosecuting. “If he wants to plead guilty to those charges, I would agree to it being a concurrent sentence, or whatever you sentence him to here in Flagler,” she told Circuit Judge Terence Perkins today. Clark, playing hardball this afternoon, said if the case in Volusia goes to trial, “I will be asking for a consecutive sentence.”
But it may all be moot anyway: today’s motion aside, Wiley is facing sentencing by Perkins on his Flagler trial conviction this Friday. The judge, who knows the entirety of the court file, including materials never presented to the jury, is not likely to be lenient. The prosecution at sentencing will also be allowed to introduce a lot of evidence that the jury had not heard. Any sentence of 30 years or more would amount to a life sentence or close to it for Wiley, whatever happens in Volusia–whether he is found guilty there or not, and whether the sentence there is to be concurrent or consecutive with his sentence in Flagler.
Still, Nunnally made the argument today: the main witnesses at trial against Wiley were his stepdaughter and her mother. They contradicted each other as to when and why the victim revealed the abuse. The victim said she’d had enough. Her mother said Wiley wanted the victim out of the house. Though the girl’s mother got an injunction against him after she filed for divorce, he continued contacting her, and at one point attempted to bribe her to keep her from testifying at his trial. The victim herself, Nunnally argued, never included sexual abuse as part of her own injunction against Wiley. In the end–or so the argument went–the clash between the victim and Wiley was motivated by the victim’s frustration at Wiley opposing other men being in the house, and the victim’s own restricted freedom: “She wanted to date who she wanted,” according to the motion for a new trial.
To the defense, the jury verdict went “against the weight of the evidence.” The prosecutor called all that “nitpicking” and absurd.
“We’re not nitpicking, we’re just pointing out the facts that these are huge facts that we presented,” Nunnally argued, “and we felt that there should have been weight given to the credibility of the witnesses that this ever happened at all here in Flagler County. What happened in Volusia, he wasn’t proud of that. That’s another matter. And that’s still pending. But it was our position that even given that there was still issues of credibility with contradictions, although there was some corroboration–and we don’t know why the jury found him guilty.”
Perkins denied the motion.
“All of the issues that you’ve raised in your motion you covered extensively during the course of the trial,” the judge told Nunnally. She had made those arguments to the jury. “So they addressed those issues and returned the verdict they did.” Perkins could see inconsistencies in testimony, but he said he found them to be “minor, they’re not material for the charges. I find no basis to overturn the jury’s verdict in this case. I do find that there was an abundance of evidence from which the jury could returned the verdict that they did, and the issues that were brought up on the motion were very well covered by both attorneys in the course of the trial.”
Wiley himself, who appeared in court in his all-orange Flagler County jail garb, stood by Nunnally the whole time but said nothing. Shackled and manacled, he returned to his seat soon after the attorneys discussed his fate regarding the Volusia case.
Sentencing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 401.