PRINCETON — A Mercer County jury deliberated for about 33 minutes Tuesday before finding a man accused of offering a 12-year-old boy $50 for a sex act guilty on charges including attempted third-degree sexual abuse.
Brad Allen Stevens, 52, of Princeton was tried before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope on charges including sexual abuse by a custodian or person in a position of trust with a child; attempt to commit a felony, third-degree sexual abuse; use of obscene matter with intent to seduce a minor; and display of obscene matter to a minor.
The jury found Stevens guilty on all charges.
Sexual abuse by a custodian or person in a position of trust with a child carries a possible sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. Attempt to commit third-degree sexual abuse has a term of one to three years in prison, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Adam Wolfe said. Use of obscene matter with intent to seduce a minor and display of obscene matter to a minor each carry a determinate term of five years in prison.
If the sentences are run consecutively, Stevens would face 13 and a half to 33 years in prison. With good behavior, he could discharge this sentence in 16 and a half years, Wolfe said. He will also face lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Sentencing was set for May 1. Stevens was remanded to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.
In the state’s opening argument, Wolfe said that the case involved a 12-year-old male juvenile who was staying at Stevens’s Princeton home on July 5, 2018. One of the juvenile’s female relatives had met Stevens on the internet.
“What is the price of a child’s innocence?” Wolfe asked the jury. “I believe it is priceless…but the price of innocence in this case was very, very low. Only $50.”
Attorney Natalie Hager, who represented Stevens, reminded the jurors that he was innocent until proven guilty, the burden of proof was on the state, and that the charges against her client had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She asked the jurors to base their decision on the evidence, not emotion, and find her client innocent. Stevens chose not to testify.
At about 5 a.m. on July 5, 2018, while the juvenile’s relative was away, Stevens came to the juvenile’s bedroom and invited him downstairs to the living room, Adams said in the state’s opening argument. The juvenile saw a pornographic video playing on a laptop computer.
The juvenile, now 13, testified that the video showed a man and woman having sex.
“ Did Mr. Stevens say anything?” Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler asked him.
“He said somebody had to show this to you sooner or later,” the juvenile replied.
The juvenile testified that he returned to his room and played a video game, but Stevens came to him again and asked if he wanted to make some money. The juvenile said he thought Stevens was talking about yard work or some other chore.
This time Stevens asked him into his bedroom. The juvenile told Sitler that Stevens “was naked” and lying on his bed.
“I went in there and he was fully undressed and had a stand off to the right,” the juvenile testified. “He had his laptop on there.”
Another pornographic video was playing on the computer, the juvenile said. After watching for about a minute, he left the bedroom.
The juvenile testified that Stevens approached him a third time and gave him a note. In it, Stevens offered him $50 in cash to perform a sex act on him. The juvenile said that he then decided to leave the house. He said that Stevens grabbed his arm and tried to touch his privates, but he pulled away and left. From there, he went to the First Community Bank on Stafford Drive where he borrowed a cellphone and called his parents, who then contacted the police.
Detective S.M. Severt of the Princeton Police Department testified about how he received a call the morning of July 5, 2018 about the juvenile appearing at the bank. The juvenile told him how “the defendant had made sexual propositions towards him, freaked him out, and scared him. He left the residence and walked to the bank.”
Severt said that he spoke to Stevens that morning. After signing and initialing a Miranda waiver form, Stevens said he had shown a pornographic video to the juvenile.
“He said, ‘Somebody’s is going to have to show him before too long anyway,’” Severt stated.
After search warrants were obtained, the laptop’s internet search history for July 5,2018 was found, Severt said. Video listings with descriptions such as “college teens sex movies” and “beautiful 18-year-old porn” were discovered. A camcorder and multimedia storage devices were tested, too, but nothing was found on them.
Severt stated that a pair of $20 bills and a $10 bill – $50 in cash – was found in a cigarette carton about 5 feet from the laptop.
In her cross-examination, Hager asked Severt if the interview with her client was recorded on video or audio. Severt said the memory card in the body camera he used became corrupted; it was sent to the manufacturer, but nothing could be retrieved. He said he did not take notes during the interview, saying the interview was brief.
Hager asked the detective if anybody else had access to the laptop. Severt said the home was watched by a patrolman until a warrant could be obtained and the laptop confiscated.
During her closing argument, Hager said the state’s case had inconsistencies. The date when pornographic websites the laptop were accessed was recorded, but not the times they were viewed. The interview with Stevens was not recorded, and the note he gave the juvenile had not been found.
After the jury delivered its verdict and was dismissed, Sitler thanked Wolfe, Severt, and Patrolman E.D. Leftwich for their work on the case. He also praised the juvenile for coming forward and testifying.
“I especially want to thank this 13-year-old juvenile who was very courageous in not succumbing to this adult’s demands, running away and asking for help. This is a signal to every victimized child out there that adults will help you if you just go and ask them to call the police. We’ll get right on it, get the perpetrators arrested and get them in the penitentiary.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org