Suspect pleads innocent

A 41-year-old man accused in the 2009 rape of a college student in Baton Rouge pleaded innocent Monday and will remain in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison until the case is resolved, a prosecutor said.

James Harold Crockett Jr. is serving a 35-year prison term in the July 6, 2009, rape of a college student in Hattiesburg, Miss. If convicted in the July 5, 2009, rape in Baton Rouge, he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Crockett, formerly of Chalmette, on a charge of aggravated rape last week.

A bearded Crockett appeared Monday before state District Judge Bonnie Jackson in an orange-and-white-striped Parish Prison jumpsuit. The judge appointed the local Public Defender’s Office to represent him.

If Crockett is convicted here of aggravated rape and sentenced to life, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Sue Bernie said she does not know if he would be returned to Mississippi to complete his 35-year sentence or remain in Louisiana to serve the life term.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” she said outside Jackson’s courtroom at the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.

Bernie said the victim in the Baton Rouge rape is doing “remarkably well” and will testify against Crockett.

“She’s ready, willing and able to do whatever she has to do,” the prosecutor said.

Crockett’s next court appearance is Feb. 7 for a hearing on any motions filed in the case.

Authorities have said Crockett used a stun gun and handcuffs during the sexual assaults in Hattiesburg and Baton Rouge.

In the Baton Rouge incident, Crockett knocked on the door of a 22-year-old woman’s Nicholson Drive apartment about 12:30 a.m. July 5, 2009, according to an arrest warrant issued at the time. He asked to see the victim’s roommate, referring to the roommate by her first name, and then asked if he could use the bathroom, the warrant says.

Once inside the apartment, Crockett grabbed the victim, and while she was screaming, began shooting her with a stun gun in her shoulder, wrist, leg and cheek, the warrant says. He then handcuffed the victim’s wrists in front of her body and handcuffed her wrists to her ankles, according to the warrant. The victim told police once she was handcuffed, Crockett raped her in her bedroom, the warrant states.

Crockett pleaded guilty in 2010 in the July 6, 2009, rape in Hattiesburg of a 21-year-old college student and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. The victim in that case said she was walking into her apartment when Crockett forced her inside, hit her, shocked her repeatedly, then handcuffed and raped her, according to police.

Crockett was detained in Florence, Ala., on July 7, 2009, after he was caught hanging around an apartment complex with handcuffs and a stun gun. However, since he had not yet been identified as a suspect in the earlier crimes, he was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and released.

Crockett returned to Louisiana and attacked a woman in Hammond with a stun gun on July 10, 2009, but she was able to fend him off, authorities said.

After an intense manhunt, Crockett was arrested July 12, 2009, when he crashed his car during a 15-mile police pursuit near Huntsville, Ala.

His criminal record includes convictions for burglary, grand larceny and escape, authorities have said.