St. Croix man charged with raping child takes plea deal dropping all but one minor charge


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ST. CROIX - A 21-year-old man arrested two years ago on charges that he raped a 14-year-old girl accepted a plea deal in the case Monday.

Joannes Francois, of Calquohoun appeared before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady on Monday afternoon and accepted the offer allowed him to plead guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In exchange for the plea, charges of second-degree aggravated rape and unlawful sexual contact were dismissed with prejudice.

The charges stem from the August 2012 incident in which police said the girl told them she ran away from home and called Francois, with whom she had been having phone conversations for several weeks, and he came and picked her up.

The girl said he drove to the Salt River Beach area, where he told her to remove her clothes, and he had sexual intercourse with her inside his truck, according to the police report. The girl told police that she was afraid but did not resist Francois' advances because she did not want him to hurt her.

Under local law, no one younger than 18 can consent to having sexual intercourse.

Not long after the arrest, the girl changed her story and stopped cooperating with police and investigators, leading prosecutors to reduce the charges against him and allowing for the conviction on the lesser charge.

Francois faced a minimum 15 years in prison if he had been convicted on the initial charges, and now, he faces no more than a year in prison and a $500 fine.

Francois had been released from jail on $50,000 bail shortly after his arrest and remained on pre-trial release conditions until last week, when he was arrested and charged with second-degree assault in connection with a domestic violence complaint made to police.

In the most recent case, police said a woman told police that she and Francois were arguing at her home on June 22 when he became very aggressive and punched her in her face.

The woman said that as the confrontation escalated, Francois grabbed her by her neck and pushed her face into a window, then slapped her and cupped both his hands around her neck and squeezed until she almost lost consciousness.

Police said when Francois was found, he gave a statement and told police that he and the woman had been arguing and that she had punched him while they argued. He told police that he did not assault the woman or choke her by grabbing her neck, according to court documents.

Bail in the new case was set at $25,000, and Francois was allowed to secure his release from prison by posting 20 percent of the bail and finding a new third-party custodian before he can be released. He had since been placed on 24-hour house arrest with the use of an electronic monitoring device while this new case is pending.

On Monday, defense attorney Martial Webster asked the court to defer entering a judgement of guilty in the case, saying that since Francois was only 19 at the time of his first arrest, he possibly could qualify for treatment under a section of the law that allows for a period of probation without a conviction being entered.

Brady said he will await a pre-sentencing report before that is determined.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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