The Pryor Times

April 16, 2013

D.A.: ‘Not in the blink of an eye’

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

— A Chelsea father is critical of the District Attorney’s Office.

Bill Jones is upset at the handling of alleged sex crimes against his 8- and 9-year-old daughters. He said recently he has received no information from the prosecutor’s office regarding the cases against the accused teenagers.

“We still haven’t heard from the district attorney that’s handling this case,” Jones said. “The only way that I have found out about the court cases is to call the child advocacy and they called OJA (Office of Juvenile Affairs) and asked them if I was allowed to be there and they said yes.”

A recent hearing on March 19 was attended by Jones, but only after he contacted other agencies to find out the date.

“The only way we found out about the (court proceeding) on the 19th was like I said, we called,” Jones said, adding that he and his wife missed “one or two” court proceedings in regard to the case.

Assistant District Attorney Sean McConnell, who is lead prosecutor in the case, explained the hearing on March 19 was the first official court date involving the three teens accused.

The teenagers originally lived across the street from the victims. One boy had been removed at the outset of the investigation, but two others remained in the home until the investigation was complete, then they were charged with crimes as well.

McConnell said the only other hearing prior to the March 19 was an emergency “show cause hearing” involving the two remaining boys.

“During the course of our investigation, I knew the close proximity of the victims to the two remaining boys was cause for ongoing disputes,” McConnell said. “I received additional information in regard to an incident at a school bus stop. At that point, I felt we had enough information and I decided that with emotions and tempers running high, it would be in everyone’s best interest to try and get the remaining boys out of the home.”

McConnell acted quickly to bring the matter before a judge. The boys were placed in the custody of the OJA, where they remain.

“From the time I made a decision until the hearing before the judge was less than 24 hours,” McConnell said, adding that Jones was not excluded from that hearing intentionally.

Of the three teenagers involved, two have pending charges of two counts of first degree rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of incest each (referencing a potential third victim).

Jones said the only contact he’s had was notification from the D.A.’s office that charges were filed and what the nature of the charges were.

“We’re not getting anything out of these people,” he said.

McConnell explained that every juvenile case is confidential.

“They (juvenile victim’s parents) have the right to receive notification of a hearing, but not necessarily the right to be in the hearing,” McConnell said. “It is up to the judge as to whether or not they will be allowed in the courtroom.”

Jones admitted he had not contacted the district attorney’s office in regard to court hearing dates because he did not feel they would be helpful.

“My girls went through 31 days of pure hell before they did anything about it,” Jones said referencing the amount of time that passed before charges were filed and the teenagers were removed from the home. “At least they (the victims) don’t have to see them every day now.”

McConnell is sympathetic to Jones’ situation.

“I understand his frustration. Justice doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye,” McConnell said. “I look forward to working with the father closely and letting him know as much information as the law will allow.”