Final defendant takes plea deal in Garden District rape case

Joseph Davis rubbed his head and looked away on Friday as the woman he and another teen raped in the backseat of a moving car in February settled onto the witness stand.

She unfurled two typewritten sheets of paper and leaned into the microphone, facing a crowded Orleans Parish courtroom.

“I was not given the choice to not have my life threatened and my body used as a plaything,” the 30-year-old woman said, describing her ordeal as the product of “vicious, thoughtless and demeaning crimes” that lasted for an hour.

“I was not given the choice to not worry that I was going to wind up dead with no way for my family to find and identify me. I was not allowed to choose whether I wanted these men to penetrate me simultaneously in the back seat of a stolen car for an hour while they attempted to steal my money. I could not choose to not be thrown from a moving car.”

She, too, averted her gaze from the 17-year-old defendant, the last man to plead guilty in the Feb. 4 rape and robbery that started and ended in the Garden District. Davis and 16-year-old Sheldon Jefferson raped the victim in the backseat while another teen, Christopher Davis, drove.

Joseph Davis agreed Friday to plead guilty to four counts of forcible rape, as well as armed robbery and a count of second-degree kidnapping.

Criminal District Judge Franz Zibilich handed him concurrent 40-year sentences under the plea deal, berating Davis in the process.

“The terror and fear you and your co-defendants put this law-abiding citizen through is incomprehensible,” Zibilich admonished, saying the repercussions of the crime extended into the larger community. “Now people have to worry about, ‘Do I want to come to New Orleans? Is it safe? Can I make it to my porch?’ ... I don’t know what to hope for you, sir.”

Davis appeared uninterested, looking back and gesturing to family members in the gallery.

He was the last of the three defendants in the case to agree to lengthy prison terms for the incident, in which they grabbed the woman after she left her car on Eighth Street, forced her at gunpoint into a nearby car and repeatedly raped and beat her, stopping to force her to take out money from automated teller machines.

Jefferson’s mother hauled him in after recognizing him on one of the ATM photos circulated by police.

He pleaded guilty last month in exchange for a 30-year sentence. Christopher Davis agreed last month to serve 35 years in prison for his role in the crime.

After the trio returned the woman to her block, they shoved her from the moving car, stopping only to steal her vehicle. Supported by numerous friends and family members in the courtroom, the woman, whom The New Orleans Advocate is not naming, spoke about the meaning of choices.

“I often cannot manage simple tasks like getting groceries or gas without having debilitating panic attacks,” she said, remaining composed throughout.

“Eventually, I will regain my choices,” she said. “They chose poorly when they chose to rape me.”

The sentence that Joseph Davis accepted comes with no possibility of parole. Along with the charges stemming from the rape, the deal also includes a guilty plea to possessing marijuana while jailed in Orleans Parish.