First-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a penalty of life or any number of years. Jesse told reporters Washington, who’ll be sentenced Dec. 12, is likely to receive a sentence in the eight- to 11-year range under sentencing guidelines.
At least three other Niles teens and possibly a fourth are still awaiting trial on similar charges in the so-called “sexting” case. Leon Murphy is scheduled for sentencing Monday but Steve Pierangeli, the assistant county prosecutor who tried the case against Washington, said he’s not certain whether Murphy will be sentenced then or not.
Earlier this year, Murphy accepted a plea bargain but he has since attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. Others awaiting trial are Trey Nichols, Parnell Martin and Martell Miller.
On the witness stand Thursday, Washington, the only witness called to testify in his defense, said he was raised by a grandparent in Benton Harbor, that his father is unknown and that his mother was declared unfit to raise him. He said he met Murphy at the county Juvenile Center, where he served 13 months on a drug charge, and he moved to Niles where Murphy resides in hopes of turning his life around.
Much of the case revolved around a video of sex acts one of two victims, who at the time was 17, willingly performed with Washington at the home of Trey Nichols, a friend of Washington, on March 14.
Although the victim testified she was unaware the encounter was being recorded - she later said she performed sex acts with Murphy, Martin, Miller and, once again, Washington after they threatened to post the video on Facebook if she didn’t - Washington testified she was aware of the recording from the start and that his sex with her was consensual.
But he admitted under cross examination by Pierangeli he knew she was under 18, the legal age of consent. Pressed about the issue, he argued he didn’t consider his sexual encounters with the girl criminal sexual conduct.
Washington agreed, however, that it was his idea to make the video, even though Nichols helped him record the acts on Washington’s cell phone. Also, Pierangeli quizzed him about a letter he wrote to Judge Scott Schofield in which he said he wanted to apologize to “my victim.”
Asked to explain the reference, he said he was apologizing “if she got the wrong perspective.” He also referred in court to the impact of the assault on her and a second underage girl he and Murphy allegedly had sex with the previous month as “an inconvenience.”
Staff writer Lou Mumford: