One was there to face charges that he had molested an 11-year-old girl last year. For another, the felony counts included incest and deviate sexual assault. A third, freed from jail for just a few days, was back because prosecutors said he again failed to register as a sex offender for a crime he committed in another state nearly a decade ago.
Monday's circuit court docket had its share of those facing sex-related crimes, including three men who came to the Jackson courthouse from neighboring counties. And while most of the defendants simply shuffled another step along the criminal court process, one saw 10 statutory rape charges dismissed two years after they were filed.
Justin T. Keen, 24, of Benton, Mo., was charged in 2010 with five counts of second-degree statutory rape and five counts of second-degree statutory sodomy. A juvenile told police that she and Keen had "numerous sexual encounters" after he returned from basic training that year. A probable-cause statement filed in the Scott County Prosecuting Attorney's office says that Keen admitted to some sexual activity to police at the time, but not intercourse. The girl was 16 at the time and Keen was 21.
On Monday, after nearly two years of legal wrangling, all of the charges were dismissed in the case by prosecutors, according to the Cape Girardeau Circuit Clerk's office. Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd did not return phone calls seeking comment. Attempts to talk to Keen were also unsuccessful.
In a separate case, Darrell E. Wilkerson, 23, of Bertrand was also in Judge William Syler's courtroom Monday, charged with felony counts of deviate sexual assault and incest. The felony complaint document alleges that Wilkerson had "deviate sexual intercourse" with a close relative without her consent. The case, moved from Scott County on a change of venue, had a jury trial set for Feb. 13.
A Perryville, Mo., man charged with child molestation had a case review Monday that was also in Cape Girardeau County on a change of venue. In a case that appears to be headed to trial, prosecutors say that Finley J. Berger, 49, sexually abused a sixth-grade girl one night while the two were alone in a garage. A forensic interviewer at the Network Against Violence Center interviewed the girl, the statement says, and the girl describes graphic allegations. The girl's mother went to police before that in September 2011 after her daughter shared her claims.
In a Cape Girardeau County case, Andrew D. Johnston, 31, of Jackson was in court for a probation violation because prosecutors say he again failed to register as a sex offender. Johnston had been released on $7,500 cash-only bond since the week before.
Court records say that Johnston was convicted of the aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in Jefferson County, Ill., in 2005. He was on probation from a similar charge that came in August 2010, when he pleaded guilty in Cape Girardeau County to failing to register his change of address. He was serving probation that was running concurrently with St. Francois County for the same charge.
On Monday, Johnston asked for representation by the public defender's office but he was found not to be "indigent" because he made bond and has a full-time job.
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