Downes convicted of sex acts

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The owner of a Florala produce stand accused of molesting two 12-year-old boys in 2007 was found guilty Tuesday.

A jury deliberated a little more than two hours before convicting James Richard Downes on four counts of second-degree sexual abuse and three counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes.

Testimony revealed that Downes, who was the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand on U.S. Hwy. 331, molested the boys on multiple occasions between June and July 2007 while they worked for him.

The abuse was discovered when the now 16-year-old victims told their parents.

Both boys, as well as representatives from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the county Department of Human Resources, testified in the case. Downes, who was represented by Mark Christensen, took the stand in his own defense and classified the incidents as “horseplay.”

Grace Jeter, chief assistant district attorney, prosecuted the case and commended the victims for not only coming forward, but also for testifying.

“I am extremely proud of these two young men,” Jeter said. “It’s never an easy thing for a child to talk about how he has been sexually abused by an adult. These two (boys) showed courage beyond their years.”

Circuit Judge Lex Short remanded Downes to the Covington County Jail until sentencing, which is set for Nov. 10 at 9 a.m.

Downes faces a sentence ranging from two to 20 years for each of the four enticing convictions and the maximum of one year each on the sexual abuse counts.