by Audrey Thomasson
LANCASTER—Three men accused of raping a 16-year-old girl were able to avoid being tried together. However, Lancaster County Circuit Court Judge R. Michael McKenney last Friday allowed the Commonwealth to join the trials of two of the men.
Rashad Jamel Foote of Weems and Marquis Monte Smith of Lancaster will be tried together because both requested bench trials. That trial was set for December 15.
A third defendant, Travis Centel Veney of Weems, was allowed to be tried separately because he had requested a jury trial. Veney’s trial was set for November 3.
Foote is charged with three felonies of abduction to defile, sodomy and forcible rape. Smith is charged with two felonies of aggravated sexual battery and forcible rape. Veney is charged with three felonies of forcible rape, abduction to extort money/benefit and aggravated sexual battery.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Jan Smith asked to combine the three trials so that the victim would not have to testify three times. “She’s already testified at three separate preliminary hearings,” said Smith.
In denying the motion, Judge McKenney said, “The responsibility is to ensure the defendants a fair trial. That far exceeds any inconvenience to the victim.”
Judge McKenney also denied Smith’s pre-trial motion to bring in an expert witness at state expense to explain the behavior anomalies of rape victims and why some take so long to report the crime.
Judge McKenney also heard the following cases on September 15.
Joseph Cox Jr. of Lively was granted a court appointed attorney. His trial on 13 charges of probation violation on felony convictions will be set October 13.
Valencia W. Owens of Lancaster entered a guilty plea to one charge of felony possession with intent to sell a schedule II drug. She was sentenced to five years with four years 10 months suspended, two years supervised probation and six months suspension of her driver’s license.
Jonte Artyne Towles of Lancaster entered a guilty plea to felony hit and run, destruction of property, unauthorized use of a vehicle and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license. He was sentenced to 10 years, with all but four months suspended and given credit for time served. He was ordered to pay $1,250 in restitution plus court costs and his license was suspended for 13 months. Three other charges were nolle prosequi.
Thomas Edward Stevens III of Lancaster entered a plea of guilty to felony grand larceny for helping three other defendants steal cash and cases of beer from Dominion Express where he was employed. He was sentenced to five years, all suspended and two years supervised probation.
The case of John Maurice Thomas of Lancaster was set for trial October 20. He is charged with felony arson of a dwelling, misdemeanor assault and battery of a family member and destruction of property.
Justeyn Tyjaih Howard waived his right to a jury trial on two felony charges of possession of drugs and selling drugs on or near a school or library. A bench trial was set for December 8.