By DAVID LISENBY
The first of three defendants in a case involving three Silsbee High School athletes accused of sexually assaulting a cheerleader in October, 2008 has made a plea agreement.
Rakheem Jamal Bolton, 19, was sentenced on Tuesday by Judge Bob Golden to one year in Hardin County Jail. The jail time was suspended and Bolton was placed on two years probation and ordered to pay a fine of $2,500. Bolton must also perform 150 hours of community service and attend anger management classes, in addition to the statutory conditions of probation.
Bolton, Christian Paul Rountree, 20, and a 16 year old football player were accused of a second degree felony charge of sexual assault of a cheerleader in 2008 that allegedly occurred at a party away from campus. A grand jury refused to hand down an indictment.
In November, 2009, another grand jury handed down indictments against Bolton and Rountree after being presented evidence from Special Prosecutor David Barlow, who was appointed when District Attorney David Sheffield recused himself from the case after being sued by the victim’s family.
“There was thought that went into making that offer,” Barlow said. “Obviously the state would have preferred a plea to the indictment itself, the actual charged offense. That doesn’t always happen. The grand jury can think one thing and the trial jury can think something different. You don’t always get what you ask for.”
“It was just a matter of negotiation between me and his attorney, Mrs. Morrison, my discussions with the victim and her family, and I assume Mrs. Morrison’s discussions with the defendant as well,” he continued. “It just developed over time, basically. This is something that has been developing with back and forth negotiations with the defendants attorney over a period of months. This is the agreement that we were able to reach.”
Barlow explained that it is not that uncommon for a felony crime to be reduced down to a misdemeanor, as happened in this case. “When you are indicted for an offense, the charge can be reduced by agreement between the state’s attorney and the defendant,” he said. “So you always indict at the top in case you have to come down later. You can’t charge somebody for a third degree felony and then make a plea agreement up to a second degree felony. You have to go back to the grand jury for that. That’s any felony case.”
The prosecutor said that he feels that justice was served in this case. “The offense that he pled guilty to is not a reportable offense, which means that he doesn’t have to sign up for the sex offender registry,” said Barlow. “That should be a benefit to him. I don’t think in any criminal prosecution everybody always ends up happy at the end of it, but I think justice was done.”
“I feel like justice was served for the victim as well,” he continued. “There are all sorts of trappings going to trial. Especially if you are the victim. You somewhat get put on trial yourself, so it is like going through it twice. That is a personal consideration that has to be made also.”
Barlow went on to say that with this high profile case there are very strong feelings on either side of the case. There are some who think the plea agreement was the right thing to do and some who thing it was the wrong thing to do.
“Nobody but the people who were involved in the offense itself and their lawyers really know all of the details,” he said. “Not all of the details are public knowledge. I would say that less than half are public, the rest are protected by attorney client confidentiality. I understand why there would be those strong feelings in the public, but they are based on less than the complete picture. We have the complete picture.”
“The victim’s wishes also plays a role in it, what the victim wants to do. In an assault offense like this, what the victims desires are probably plays the biggest role in what the outcome is,” he concluded.
According to Barlow, Rountree has a court date set for Oct. 27 on an announcement docket.