Probable cause acknowledged in rape case
New Orleans — Two teenagers accused of kidnapping and raping a Garden District woman last week likely will be tried as adults after a probable cause hearing Wednesday, and the youths could face life in prison if convicted.
Attorneys for Sheldon Jefferson, 15, and Joseph Davis, 16, both stipulated Wednesday that there was probable cause to hold their clients for aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery charges in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court. That stipulation meant their cases will be moved from juvenile court to Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, ad hoc Juvenile Judge Amy Kern said.
“This court will order the defendants immediately transferred to Orleans Parish Prison,” Kern told the teenagers as their parents looked on.
State law mandates that any juvenile who is 15 years old or older accused of aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping be tried as an adult.
Jefferson and Davis are accused, along with 18-year-old Christopher Davis, of kidnapping a 30-year-old woman Feb. 4 from in front of her home on Eighth Street. According to court records, the teenagers drove the woman to various ATMs to withdraw cash.
Christopher Davis, who is not related to Joseph Davis, has already been booked on similar charges and is being held on $1.5 million bond.
According to court records, en route to the ATMs, two of the teenagers raped the victim before returning to her neighborhood, where they pushed her from a moving vehicle. They also stole the victim’s car, police said. Police were able to secure video footage of Jefferson using an ATM and gave that to local media outlets. Jefferson’s mother saw his picture and turned him in to police. According to court records, he admitted to the crimes and implicated the other two teens.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman said the aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping require a grand jury indictment. The armed robbery charges could have been handled in juvenile court, but they also are being moved to criminal district court.
“I think the district attorney has been clear he plans on preceding with this case in adult court because of the nature of the charges,” Bowman said.
Kern set a cash bond of $250,000 on the armed robbery charges, and no bond has been set for the teenagers on the rape and kidnapping accusations.
Wednesday’s hearing came after a brief delay this week because of a dispute over who should have represented the youths initially.
A legal challenge by Juvenile Regional Services to Kern’s decision to avoid that group when assigning council for the teenagers was dropped Wednesday. Robert Jenkins, an attorney hired by Joseph Davis’ family, said it’s too early in the process to comment on how the case will proceed.
“We’re in for a long haul,” Jenkins said.
In court Wednesday, both teens were shackled around their hands and ankles, and Davis had a small, black Bible open on the table in front of him.
Both teens were given a short time to speak with their parents before being transported to Orleans Parish Prison.
The sexual assault shocked the Garden District neighborhood and garnered intensive media, political and community attention.
Friends of the sexual assault victim have been able to raise more than $38,000 to help with her medical expenses through private donations.
A website dedicated to raising money for the victim reports that she is facing expensive medical bills, the cost of moving to a new neighborhood and replacing her vehicle.