On March 8, Jose David Zayas an 18-year-old resident of 23 Smith Trail in Palm Coast, was arrested on three second-degree felony charges of lewd and lascivious molestation on a 13-year-old girl. He spent less than three hours at the Flagler County jail before posting bond.
He was facing a maximum of 15 years in prison on the one charge of molestation the State Attorney filed three days later. But those few hours at the county jail may be all the jail or prison time Zayas will serve if he abides by the plea agreement and guilty plea he tendered before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins in circuit court this morning.
Zayas pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of child abuse, a third-degree felony, and was sentenced to 60 months (or five years) on sex-offender probation, with a long list of restrictions. But if Zayas abides by the probation terms, he will manage not to serve time nor be branded a sexual offender for the rest of his life, though he will be a felon: Perkins did not withhold adjudication.
According to his plea agreement, Zayas must successfully complete sex-offender treatment with a provider approved by the Department of Corrections. He must submit to an annual polygraph, or lie-detector test as part of his sex treatment. He is prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with any minors, and may neither work nor volunteer where children congregate. He is prohibited from possessing pornography or accessing the Internet. There is an exception to the Internet rule for work or educational purposes only. But he may not have social media accounts. Nor is he allowed to have a post office box, participate in Halloween, or visit parks, schools or day care centers without prior approval from his probation officer.
He may not have contact with the victim or a “similar fact witness,” the plea agreement states, “unless and until victim and similar fact witness therapist and sex treatment therapist think is in best interest of victim and similar fact witness for contact.”
The plea agreement is the first written documentation of the existence of an apparent second victim, termed a “similar fact witness” because the state did not have enough evidence to pursue charges in that instance.
The case against Zayas stems from a Flagler County Sheriff’s investigation that revealed that a 13-year-old child was molested by “a male family member,” meaning Zayas, “as far back as she can remember and as recently as 11/29/18.” Zayas spoke voluntarily with Sheriff’s detective Annie Conrad and confirmed the information provided by the girl as accurate, his arrest report states. “David estimated the number of times he sexually touched the child victim to be in the hundreds,” before he turned 18, but with at least one instance after he turned 18, by which time the girl had turned 13.
Zayas was initially arrested concurrently with Bryan Thomas Lemus, also 18 and a close friend of Zayas’s who used to spend nights at the Zayas home, sneak into the victim’s room and allegedly proceed to molest her, becoming bolder over time. Lemus was cooperative with investigators as well, telling them, as Zayas had, that he was interested in seeking help. Lemus originally faced two second-degree felony charges. One has been dropped. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing next week.
The same molestation charge can have wildly different applications once the case wends itself through court despite confessions. The difference usually has to do with the offender’s history and what deals victims and their families are willing to agree to more than the act or acts themselves. Since Zayas’s case involved the same family for both victim and perpetrator, plus his cooperation from the start, leniency was in the cards. But his case contrasts sharply with that of James Taylor two years ago, when the 39-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of the same charge Zayas originally faced, but for molesting his 11-year-old daughter once, “for a couple of seconds,” in the victim’s own words, on the upper area of her chest and over her clothes. But he had already been a convicted felon at the time and was on parole at the time of the offense.
On the other hand, there was the case of Maria Howell last year, a 20-year-old who’d spent time with a 14-year-old runaway, and who was willing to plead to 10 years on probation on the same reduced charge that Zayas pleaded to: child abuse. The judge refused, wanting prison time, then agreed to a more lenient sentence on that charge of 18 months in prison. By then the victim’s mother had agreed to leniency. Howell served eight months and was released last October, on probation. Last month, a man facing 50 years in prison for molesting an autistic child was sentenced to 10 years of probation, no prison time.
What is wrong with this picture? Really, isn’t it enough that this sick individual did this but to not be punished – shame on you Judges, shame on you legal system, shame on you “Palm Coast Teen” for doing this…… Shame, shameful …… What next, Murderer gets off because he didn’t mean to do it???? Really?
Get off again. Wow
Donna G Tate says
Why was this guy’s punishment so different from the others?
Money and lawyers
Steve Vanne says
Got to love our justice system…..
Hr and his friends will be at it again in no time at all. They gamed the system.
WILLIAM J NELSON says
Of course I as not there, BUT, Your report as it is should be “proof” enough that a young man is/was terribly irresponsible. Probation ?? Maybe, but only after a taste of confinement.
Why does this JUDGE keep his job ??? He is a disgrace to his profession !! (He should apply for a position on the ACLU)
Why are these pedophiles and sex crime criminals always given “probation”? This is disgusting and they will be out there to do it again.
These dam liberal judges are ruining this county!
This is not good! Second one in a row getting probation. Sad for the children. People keep your children safe. Trust no one!
This is a joke , isn’t it ?????
Palm Coast says
Judge Terence Perkins is way too lenient.
Admit to molesting children and no prison time?
Trailer Bob says
This is just simply so wrong on many levels. Molesting a minor “hundreds of times” and probation is the sentence? I am in my sixties and have lived in many different places and states in my lifetime. Never have I experienced such a lenient court system as we have here. Will someone please wake up? Will one of our elected officials get on this? All the practice does is show others that you can break the law, harm others, steal, etc., and get away with it. Where are our commissioners on this judicial ridiculousness?
This sends a nice strong signal to criminals,,,come to palm coast to do your crimes and get off scotch free!!!
this is way too soft of a sentence for this asswipe, does any one else wonder why the country is as messed up as it is? Well, right here is a perfect example.
The governor should be notified and yank this judge
They give drug dealers life in prison but rape a child and the law protects you by not sending you to prison! Cause in prison these child predators will likely be killed or have to live in protective custody! Smh protecting child predators
This is not a justice system ,
This is an unjustice system !
Married Dude says
Am I the only one that noticed that this fellow is 18 years old, the victim is 13 and was molested “for as long as she can remember,” which means that this started when the perpetrator was around 10, or maybe even younger? Ten year old boys don’t just molest kids out of the blue, there has to be something that instigates it, whether it be porn, abuse by someone else, or something similar.
I believe that there is a lot more to this story than is publicly known.
Palm coaster says
For everyone that’s outraged, vote this guy out at the next election. The entire community should be outraged. I don’t care that he didn’t have a record. The only reason he didn’t have a record is because he’s been molesting her for years and just didn’t get caught.
Betty Bop says
How did a homeless man get sentenced to 7 years for failing to kill himself but this disgusting individual gets probation Flagler county is ridiculous
Pretty sure that Bryan Lemus is a United States Marine. Where’s the honor at? Disgusting honestly. Hoping for a discharge.
A young opressed black man tryin to feed his family by selling a little drugs will spend 3 years in prison while white rapist go free. Is this justice?
I can understand why people are pissed off about this plea agreement. But having had experience with the criminal justice system in my past life, I realize that there are a lot of wheeling and dealing that go on behind the scenes. I would submit to those who are upset that the State was really, really apprehensive (for a variety of unknown reasons) about putting the victim through a trial. Rather than risk a mistrial or acquittal, they went the “safe route.” Hey, it’s messy, but it’s the only system we have, unless someone else has a better idea!
A. J. says
Bad system. young men molest young girl, & get away with doing wrong. Laws made by white men for white men. What a bad message, do wrong & get away with it. What s shame. What about her, I am stre she do not like the outcome. Wow I wondet how her family atr taking this white injustice.
Palm Coast Resident says
Wow!!! So disappointing, sad really. It appears there is corruption in the court room…