Opp man guilty in sex case

Published 12:05 am Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Covington County jury on Wednesday found Jonathan Coon guilty of rape, sodomy and sexual abuse of a child under 12.

The charges stemmed from a 2010 incident in which a girl, then 11, claimed that Coon raped her in the back of his Bronco when she and a friend went mud-riding with him. The victim alleged that the friend was asleep in the front seat when the attack occurred.

And the jury believed the victim, despite hearing testimony from the friend that the she was not asleep and that the attack never occurred.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, who prosecuted the case, reminded jurors in closing arguments that both the victim’s testimony and Coon’s taped confession stated that Coon got in the back seat of his Bronco with the victim, touched her inappropriately, and engaged in intercourse.

“He had sex with her,” Jeter said. “And it hurt. It hurt (her).”

Jeter said that in Coon’s confession, he said he collaborated that story when he said he tried to stop “because he was hurting her.”

“We know that he penetrated her because it hurt,” Jeter said. “(The victim) told you that it hurt. He told you that it hurt.”

Jeter also referenced a recording of a phone call Coon made from the jail in which he told his sister he knew what he was doing when he “fell in love” with the victim.

Defense attorney Mark Christiansen argued that the jury shouldn’t find Coon guilty because the evidence presented was irreconcilable.

There was no medical evidence that the rape occurred, he said, and no scientific evidence. DNA tests of a blanket in the back seat of the Blazer revealed no DNA from the victim in this case, he said.

“You can’t convict him for stealing a kiss,” Christiansen said. “It was stupid, but not illegal.”

He said statistics show that 20 to 30 percent of “confessions” are made because the suspect gets tired and finally gives in and agrees with interrogators.

“You all heard (a tape) of the investigators saying, ‘Come on man, you did this.’

“Whose mouths did those words come out of first?” Christiansen said. “The investigator’s.”

Christiansen said the confession came after five hours of interrogation, and after Coon had worked a double shift and had very little sleep.

He also cited a letter written by the alleged victim to Coon after the Sunday afternoon on which she said the attack occurred.

“She talks about missing him, hoping to spend some more time with him, and says, ‘I love you,’ ” Christiansen said. “She writes Xs and Os, for hugs and kisses.

“Is this a letter someone who was raped would write to her rapist?” he said. “This is a letter written by a girl, who had been out for an afternoon of mud riding with her friends, acting like the school girl that she was.”

Christiansen also cited testimony from two adults, both of whom saw the victim that afternoon and one of whom had previously been raped. Both adults testified that the victim did not act as if anything had happened to her.

Jeter said the letter was written by a school girl who had a crush on an adult.

“He was 21 years old, ladies and gentlemen,” Jeter said. “Twenty-one years old.

“Was it flattering that he thought she was cute? Probably,” she said. “Does that make it OK that he had sex with her? No.”

Coon has been held in the Covington County Jail under a $190,000 bond since his arrest in 2010. He could be sentenced for 10 years to life on each of the three felony convictions. He also will be required to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act and, because his victim was a child, he will be ineligible for parole.

Judge Lex Short will sentence Coon on Feb. 21.