The prosecution reduced charges against an Augusta man accused of sexual assault Thursday because the victim cannot be located and the admissibility of the accused’s statement was questionable.
Benjamin B. Jenkins, 36, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to burglary and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. A charge of rape was dismissed as part of the plea negotiation.
Judge Sheryl B. Jolly accepted the plea, after assuring Jenkins understood that he was pleading guilty to committing burglary with the intent to rape. She sentenced him to 10 years in prison, giving him credit for the five years he has been incarcerated since his arrest. He will have an additional 10 years to serve on probation.
It was around 3 a.m. on May 12, 2012, when Jenkins crawled through a window in the victim’s home, said District Attorney Natalie Paine. The victim told investigators that she was in bed with her 8-month-old child when she awoke to find Jenkins on top of her engaged in intercourse. Jenkins fled the scene, leaving behind a condom wrapper, the same brand as the ones he had in his possession when arrested hours later, Paine said.
Jenkins was questioned with the aide of an interpreter because he is hearing impaired. He confessed to rape, Paine said. But in the years that followed, Jenkins was found to have limited understanding of American Sign Language, and that put the legality of the confession in jeopardy, Paine said. The prosecution staff has been unable to find the victim, and without DNA evidence or an admissible confession, the rape charge had to be dismissed, Paine said.
Jenkins was charged with the drug offense because he had several bags of marijuana when he was searched after his arrest.
Defense attorney Debra Neumann told the judge she believed Jenkins would have been acquitted of the rape charge because of witnesses who would have testified about his prior relationship with the victim . Jenkins was pleading guilty to the other charges to take responsibility and get on with his life, Neumann said.
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