Following a two-day trial, a 49-year-old Apalachicola man was sentenced Friday to three life terms for his having committed, more than 20 years ago, sexual battery on a 6-year-old-girl.
Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey sentenced John Stan Grant to serve the terms concurrently. The crime of sexual battery on a child under age 12 by an adult over age 18 does not allow for the possibility of parole.
The jury of four men and two women reached their verdict after deliberating for fewer than 30 minutes.
Grant still has a sexual battery charge pending involving a girl who was 13 at the time of the alleged offense.. The case for which he was sentenced Friday stems from a Sept. 22, 2010 arrest, and involved acts committed sometime in 1991 against a victim who is now 27 and married.
Assistant State Attorney Robin Myers said his office is discussing a possible resolution to this second case, which has not yet gone to trial.
But details of it surfaced in last week’s trial after the victim was allowed to testify. Florida law makes allowances for the testimony from victims of crimes that have not gone to trial when it is successfully argued that it shows a pattern of misconduct by the defendant.
Grant first was tried for the crimes against the first victim on Sept, 12, but that trial ended in a mistrial.
Myers said he was in the process of arguing before Dempsey, outside the presence of the jury, that the second girl’s testimony should be allowed, when the girl broke down in tears. A juror who was seated with the others, in a separate room adjacent to the courtroom, heard the commotion and opened the door. Defense attorney Gregory Cummings moved for, and was granted, a mistrial.
The focus of this retrial was on whether Grant, on three separate occasions in 1991, inappropriately touched the victim. The victim testified in a closed courtroom before the jury.
With children so young, “it is impossible to remember the exact dates,” said Myers. :”It’s based on what grade they were in.”
Myers said evidence showed the girl told her mother of the incidents in 1997, when she was 12. He said the mother decided at that time not to put her daughter through the pain of a public trial, and the matter was not disclosed to law enforcement officials.
The issue of what had happened in 1991 resurfaced in July 2010, after the second victim came forward to say Grant had tried to have sex with her. The girl was examined with a sexual assault kit at Weems Memorial Hospital, and testimony was provided by health officials, including Dr. Joda Lynn, the test revealed “a presumptive positive to the presence of blood," Myers said.
It was after this incident allegedly occurred to the second girl that the first girl came forward to tell law enforcement officials what she said happened to her 19 years earlier.
Also figuring into the trial was the testimony of Grant’s mother, who appeared on behalf of both the prosecution and defense. She said that she had become aware of a problem with one of the victims at the time, but took her at her word that the commotion had been due to a nightmare. The defense made an attempt to punch holes in Grant's mother’s recollections, and challenged the credibility of both of the female victims.
Myers said the trial had been a difficult one, and noted that that there is no statute of limitations in capital cases such as this.
“It was a hard case for everybody, for the victims, for the family, for the jury,” he said. “We’re not here to determine the content of somebody’s character. We’re here to determine whether the actions constitute a crime.”
Cummings has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the verdict.