The local rape crisis center issued a press release Sunday indicating their opposition to the decision of 119th District Attorney George McCrea's office for offering a plea deal of 10-year deferred adjudication probation to defendant Thomas Boden.
The Concho Valley Rape Crisis Center (CVRCC) will hold a press conference Monday (Aug. 31) on the Tom Green County Courthouse steps, 112 W. Beauregard Ave., at 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the “Justice for Annabelle Protest” organized by the victim’s family.
Boden was accused of one count of second-degree indecency with a child by contact and a first degree aggravated sexual assault of a child. The plea deal dropped both charges in exchange for Boden’s guilty plea on another first-degree felony, injury to a child with serious bodily injury.
For the state, 51st Assistant District Attorney Jason Ferguson was the prosecutor and the trial date was set for October of this year until the plea deal was struck.
“We are tired of seeing sex offenders go unpunished. We would rather see them tried in a courtroom and let a jury decide,” said Karla Payne, Executive Director of the CVRCC in a Sunday press release. “There seems to have been enough physical evidence in this case for them to prosecute even without the child’s testimony.”
Ferguson argued that the case against Boden was hard to prove and the plea deal assured a conviction; a trial risked Boden walking away innocent. It also offered the best protection of the victim and her family, he argued.
“In order for a child to be allowed to testify at a trial in Texas, the Judge must be convinced that the child is able to (1) intelligently observe the events, (2) accurately remember the events, (3) adequately tell the jury about the events, and (4) understand the moral obligation of telling the truth. The only witnesses to this offense were both toddlers – one was 2 and one was 4,” Ferguson wrote to San Angelo LIVE! editor Chelsea Reinhard in an email.
“The possibility of one or both of these children being unable to testify was extremely high, if not a certainty. If that were to happen, we faced the very real possibility that the Defendant would be found not guilty and simply go home with no consequences. That was something we could not risk,” Ferguson wrote.
An Austin advocacy group, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault in their appearance Monday, will join the CVRCC.
“Child sexual assault cases rely on the collaboration of a variety of entities including the child advocacy center, rape crisis center, district attorney’s office, and law enforcement. Disagreements are a part of the process,” said Rose Luna, in the press release. She is Director of Communications at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “And in this case we strongly disagree with the plea deal and the lack of communication with the family.”
Family organizers of the protest organized for Monday at 10 a.m. have complained that the CVRCC was attempting to take credit for the event. The event has over 1,000 people signed up and promising to attend the protest on a Facebook event page.
Payne wrote on the page clarifying her organization’s participation. “Hello everyone. Please know that we the local rape crisis center are not trying to take credit for the protest. The media outlets or posts conveying that information have reported inaccurately. We are simply hosting a press conference to bring awareness on the injustice of the plea deal. As experts on the issue of sexual violence, the press conference was intended to complement the efforts of the protest not take credit for it. We have been clear with the media that the protest event is separate and organized by the friends and family. Not the rape crisis center. Not sure why they are getting the times wrong either. Organizing a protest is beyond our professional realm. Standing with survivors of sexual violence is our goal and we stand with the victim and her family as they continue on their journey to healing.”
Monday at 9:30 a.m. the CVRCC conducts a press conference on the Tom Green County Courthouse steps, 112 W. Beauregard. At 10 a.m. the protest against the 51st Assistant District Attorney begins at the same location.
Correction - We originally reported that ADA Jason Ferguson was with the 51st District. That was an error. Ferguson was prosecuting for the 119th District Court.