Updated Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
After seven hours of deliberation, a jury found John Jackson guilty on all charges, including sex abuse and the production of child pornography. Deliberations began right after closing arguments Friday afternoon, capping off the four-day trial.
Friday, 3:19 p.m.
Jury deliberations began on Friday for former Olympic boxer John Jackson. A federal judge sent the panel to review, debate and decide allegations of child pornography production and child sex abuse brought against the defendant.
Prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and defense attorney Yohana Manning spent the past three-and-a-half days presenting witnesses and evidence about Jackson’s alleged encounters with three underage girls in 2019. The government’s legal team, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Rainwater, wrapped up with closing arguments, followed by Manning’s close on Friday morning.
Jackson is charged with production of child pornography, enticing minors to engage in sexual activity, and transporting minors for the purpose of committing criminal sexual acts. He is also charged with first- and aggravated second-degree rape. There is also a charge of transporting minors with intent to commit illegal sex acts.
The use of cell phones and the evidence they held became key to the case for both the prosecution and the defense. Recorded sex acts were found by investigators on phones belonging to witnesses who told the court they had sex with the defendant. All were under age 18 at the time.
But detectives and a special agent from Homeland Security Investigations said there were other details found while searching the phone’s contents, including text messages, date and location notes.
Some text messages from witnesses included misleading statements about their whereabouts at the time their encounters took place. Other messages spoke about marijuana possession. One witness told the court in testimony she turned off the location tracker on her phone at times, so others would not know where she was at the time.
There was also testimony from one witness who said Jackson took her phone away from her and deleted text message exchanges between the two of them.
One of the date and location notes helped investigators match two pornographic videos with statements made by one female minor and with the defendant’s apartment in Estate Mandahl.
Special Agent Michael Fogel said he found the images after one female minor and her father visited the V.I. Police Department Major Crimes Unit and turned over their cell phones. While inspecting the minor’s phone, Fogel said he found the two images in a folder marked Recently Deleted.
The agent said he was able to retrieve the videos by moving them into another folder to prevent them from being automatically erased. Rainwater asked if there was any information found in the metadata attached to the video. Fogel said yes.
With that information, the agent pinpointed a date and the place where the video was made. “In the vicinity of Mr. Jackson’s apartment,” Fogel said.
In closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury there was sufficient evidence to find the defendant guilty of all charges. Rainwater admitted that some of the evidence was circumstantial but still admissible. She also asked jurors to remember the testimony of two other minors who said they also had sex with Jackson and the locations where the alleged acts took place; in a parking lot, in the vicinity of an east-end beach on St. Thomas, and in the Mandahl apartment.
Manning insisted the government had not provided enough corroborating evidence and had failed to meet its burden of proof. In closing arguments, he also disputed the charge of transporting minors in order to commit sex crimes.
In the wrap-up, the prosecutor accused the defense of trying to muddle the jury’s thinking. “See through the smoke and the mirrors and see what this is all about. This is about a 30-year-old man who victimized not one child, but multiple ones — how he coerced and used them,” Rainwater said.