A Little Rock teenager must stand trial as an adult over accusations he twice had sex with a minor, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Monday.
Charged with two counts of rape, Jason Montell Spencer admitted to authorities that he had sex with a 13-year-old Searcy boy in March 2014 when Spencer was 17, but he denied any further sexual encounters, according to a recorded police interview played for Judge Herb Wright.
The judge denied Spencer's petition to be tried in juvenile court after a 79-minute hearing.
In that December interview, Spencer told detective Wade Niehouse that the boy, whom he had met through his family, instigated the sexual encounter during a weeklong visit to Spencer's home.
Spencer also told the detective that he regretted what had happened and said there was never any other sexual contact between them.
But the accuser told police that Spencer also had sex with him again in June 2014 when Spencer was 18.
Spencer vehemently denied that accusation. He told the detective he did not know why the boy would say that, except that the boy had gotten mad at him a couple of weeks earlier because he didn't think Spencer was paying enough attention to him.
Deputy prosecutor Michael Wright argued against a defense motion to transfer the case to juvenile court, telling the judge that Spencer, now 19, had demonstrated adult maturity through his involvement in leadership roles in the teen programs Youth M.O.V.E. Arkansas and Young Life leadership programs.
Only the first of the two counts, the allegation about what happened when Spencer was 17, was eligible to be transferred to juvenile court, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Lee Short petitioned the judge to transfer the charges to juvenile court, saying Spencer qualified for a specialized treatment program for juvenile defendants charged with sex crimes. The teen has never been in trouble with the law before or had any disciplinary problems at school, Short said.
Spencer also is not accused of acting in a violent or dangerous manner that would require him to be prosecuted as an adult, Short told the judge.
Testimony that he has been an obedient and respectful young man further shows he would be a good candidate for the rehabilitative programs available in the juvenile justice system, the attorney said.
If the judge invoked the Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction Act, Spencer could ultimately be sent to prison if he is found not to be rehabilitated by age 21, Short said.
Spencer did not address the court, but testifying to his good character were his older brother, Jarvis Crawford, their mother, Lakesia Smith, and Spencer's mentor, children's advocate Pamela Marshall.
Both Smith and Marshall asked the judge to consider that Spencer had been traumatized by the January 2014 murder of another brother, 22-year-old Shoncoven Cantrell Smith.
They also both described Spencer as very immature, with Marshall testifying that she had pushed him into leadership positions in the M.O.V.E. program to encourage him to overcome his immaturity.
Metro on 09/29/2015
Print Headline: Teenager to be tried as adult on 2 counts of rape of minor