Rape Conviction Nets 20 Year Sentence

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By Linda Cicoira — A Machipongo man was sentenced Tuesday in Northampton Circuit Court to 20 years in prison for raping an incapacitated married friend after a night of drinking at another friend’s house where the woman often partied and felt safe.

Seven years and two months of the term was suspended for Tavarus Jewel “TJ” Stratton, 34, of James Allen Drive. He was remanded to the Eastern Shore Regional Jail. Upon release, he will be on good behavior for the rest of his life and be on probation for an indefinite period.

“Rape is about as serious crime as it gets, punishable by life in prison,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury. “The impact upon the victim is so severe … She fears being alone with men … She feels angry because her body was violated … He used no protection.” Now the victim avoids social situations, the prosecutor added.

Stratton plans on appealing the conviction. Defense lawyer Eric P. Korslund said his client’s behavior was “impulsive” and that he was cooperative. “Never left the area, never changed his identity.”

Gloria Stratton, the defendant’s aunt, was a character witness. “He’s a very good young man. He takes care of his kids. He is not a threat to society,” she said, adding that he has no prior criminal history and is a hard worker.

The victim testified that she was drinking vodka at a January 2017 party. She said he was charged with the crime after she woke up to him having sex with her while she was intoxicated and sleeping in a bedroom of the house where the party occurred. He had pulled her pants and underwear down. 

“He was in the bed with me and that was a place he was not supposed to be,” she testified. She called her husband to come to get her right after the incident occurred. He took her to the hospital where an examination was performed. She was hoping the incident “was a dream” but soon learned it wasn’t as the semen found on her belonged to the defendant.

Stratton claimed he and the victim had consensual sex in his car two days earlier at Indiantown Park and that was why his sperm was found. 

Judge W. Revell Lewis did not find the story credible. “She was incapacitated … you knew her condition,” said Lewis. “She described what happened to her. That you had sex with her while she was unconscious… that has left her scarred for the rest of her life … that will never fully heal … you have destroyed her being able to have trust. She called her husband. Obviously, a person whom she trusted more than anyone else. He came to her assistance and has been supportive of her.”

The Eastern Shore Post does not report the names of victims of sexual assault.

In another case, Booker T. Wyner, 74, of Beverly Lane in Cape Charles, was given a six-month suspended sentence for making a false statement, regarding his previous felony conviction, when attempting to purchase a gun in September 2018. He was ordered to be on unsupervised probation for six months. Wyner pleaded guilty to the charge.

Ebony Rena Baines, 28, of Washington Street in Exmore, pleaded guilty to possessing a Schedule I or II drug on Dec. 21, 2018. Sentencing was scheduled for July 29.

Jonta Peters, 35, of Sample Court in Nassawadox, was granted a $5,000 secured bond. She was indicted earlier this month on a count of maliciously wounding Kendrick Hope on March 6.

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