Prior Claims Raise Credibility Issues in Florida Sex Crime Case

Florida sexual assault and battery cases often come down to one person’s word against another’s, especially in cases involving a victim and an alleged perpetrator who know each other. In a recent case, the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal took on just one of those cases, including some unique questions about the victim’s previous claims of sexual battery.

The defendant was charged with armed sexual battery against his ex-wife, with whom he had previously been married for 20 years. The victim said she had just returned to her apartment from dropping her children at school when the defendant showed up. He allegedly told the woman that he had a knife in his backpack, said “now you’re going to get it,” and warned her not to make a commotion. The woman didn’t scream or fight the defendant when he then had sex with her inside the home, according to the court. She did run to a neighbor’s house when the defendant moved to get his cell phone. She called the police, who arrested him.Some of the details of the couple’s stormy relationship became clear at trial. They were married for 22 years when they separated in 2008. In a deposition, the victim said the defendant had previously tried to rape her in 2001. She also testified at length about being sexually abused by her employer years earlier, according to the court. But the judge blocked the defendant’s lawyer’s attempts to later ask the victim about those allegations at trial. DNA evidence showed his DNA, and a nurse who examined the victim said her injuries were consistent with her version of the events. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to at least 25 years in prison.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the court said the previous allegations of rape against the defendant and the victim’s claims that she was raped by her employer weren’t relevant to the case. Although the trial judge wrongly found that the allegations were banned from being considered in court under the state’s rape shield law, the court said there was nevertheless no reason for the victim to be cross examined on her deposition testimony.

“There is no similarity between the allegations of the sexual assault by [the defendant] and the sexual assault years earlier by the employer,” the court said. It explained that the victim claimed the employer raped her repeatedly after the defendant questioned whether she was being unfaithful to him following the birth of their child. As a result, the credibility of her claims against the employer had no bearing on the credibility of her claim against the defendant, at least according to the court.

The court also said the previous allegation of rape against the defendant wasn’t relevant. Although he argued that the victim continued to have a relationship with him following the first alleged rape, the court said there was no continuing relationship at the time of the second alleged crime. “Without some evidence that there was a continuing relationship which would make relevant the prior, decade-old allegation of sexual assault or some evidence of substantially similar conduct, we cannot conclude that the court abused its discretion in denying admission of the prior allegations,” the court said.

If you or a loved one has been charged with rape or another sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater criminal lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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