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Emily Welker, Published February 13 2013

Trial begins for teen accused of rape

FARGO – It’s a criminal case that’s been described, by people on both sides of it, as every parent’s worst nightmare.

In opening statements Wednesday in Cass County District Court in the forcible rape case against 19-year-old Jermaine Jones, both prosecution and defense attorneys described a night of teenagers drinking so heavily that one girl was found by paramedics naked from the waist down, convulsing and unresponsive.

Jermaine Jones and his half brother, Tremaine Jones, 19, are both charged with gross sexual imposition, a Class AA felony.

Both men were arrested Sept. 23 last year after police responded to a party at a south Fargo apartment on a report from a neighbor of what sounded like a domestic disturbance.

Jermaine Jones was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old girl at the party.

Tremaine Jones was arrested on resisting arrest charges and also charged with having sex with a 13-year-old girl there. He was also later charged with possessing sexually explicit photos of a 16-year-old girl and having sex with her. He is set for a trial next month.

Prosecutors played a 911 tape in court Wednesday in which the neighbor, Britta Johnson, called police the night of the party to report the sounds of sex coming from her upstairs neighbor’s – but in a way that gave her “a bad gut feeling.”

“All I heard was a scream. Not a good scream. And then ‘no’ and ‘stop,’ ” Johnson can be heard saying on the tape. “And there’s a lot of banging on my ceiling.”

Johnson testified she could hear someone scream “no” at least 10 times, and “stop” at least 10 times.

“But you weren’t there – you don’t know what happened in that room?” asked defense attorney Pat O’Day on cross-examination.

O’Day argued the 13-year-old lied about her age and the sex was consensual.

State law regarding sex offenses considers it an affirmative defense if the defendant “reasonably believed the victim to be an adult.” However, prosecutors have argued that such a defense wouldn’t apply because the law also states that if “the criminality of conduct depends on a child’s being below the age of fifteen, it is no defense that the actor did not know the child’s age, or reasonably believed the child to be older than fourteen.”

Dr. Arne Graff, a pediatrician specializing in child abuse cases, testified that there were no signs of physical trauma to the girl such as bruises, cuts and scratches. But he said there was visible swelling and bruising of her genitals.

Officer Travis Moser told the court Jermaine Jones became “very upset” when told the girl’s true age. “By his response, I could tell he was unaware of how old she was,” he said in court.

Melinda Henry, mother of Tremaine Jones, told The Forum on Wednesday that “no one was in their right minds to consent to anything” that night.

“My boys would never – Tremaine has a sister who is 12 years old and is very protective [of her],” she said during a trial break. “These boys would never.”

Henry claims the girls sought out the half-brothers on Facebook, pretending to be older teens.

“At their age – they’ve never been in a situation where they needed to start checking people’s IDs,” Henry said.

“The law is designed to protect these children, and I understand that. But who is responsible for these children?”

One of the girls’ mothers told The Forum in an earlier interview that her daughter had set her birth year as 1995 even though it’s 1998, and urged parents to monitor the Internet use of children.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541