82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, June 16, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsJackson Files Motion Seeking to Vacate Rape, Child Porn Convictions

Jackson Files Motion Seeking to Vacate Rape, Child Porn Convictions

John Jackson, the onetime St. Thomas boxer sentenced in February to 25 years in prison for child pornography and rape, says he is owed a new day in court and his convictions should be vacated because his constitutional rights were violated at a critical phase of his trial in April 2022.

John A. Jackson (VIPD photo)
John A. Jackson (VIPD photo)

The motion, filed Thursday in V.I. District Court, is Jackson’s second appeal in as many months. In April, he sent a letter to Chief District Judge Robert Molloy asking for permission to appeal his conviction. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stayed any such action until the entry of a Judgment and Commitment Order by the court.

That has yet to happen, according to the court docket, and Jackson — a father of two who once had a promising boxing career and represented the USVI in the sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics — remains in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center Guaynabo in Puerto Rico while awaiting assignment to a federal prison.

Jackson, 34, filed his latest motion pro se — meaning on his own behalf — despite having a court-appointed attorney and despite the appeals court ruling. He noted, however, that it was not a “Section 2255” motion to vacate his conviction but rather “a federal rule of criminal procedure” motion under Rule 57(b), which governs local rules by district courts.

He also filed a motion seeking the return of personal property that he says authorities seized during the investigation of his crimes, including his cell phone, his mother’s cell phone, his children’s iPads, a Roku, two Amazon Prime Fire Sticks, and a gold Gucci bracelet that he alleges were taken without a warrant or court order from his home when he was arrested in February 2019.

Thursday’s motions are the latest in a long list of efforts by Jackson to be released. He complained of inadequate representation and other issues throughout his case, leading to a cascade of lawyers. Despite the trial being delayed when he requested new counsel, Jackson wrote at the end of a pro se motion he filed in January 2022 that his indictment should be dismissed because the Speedy Trial Act had been violated.

At that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a motion objecting to Jackson’s pro se efforts, arguing that any matters he wants to raise in court should be filed by his attorney. Molloy agreed, denying Jackson’s motions without prejudice and ordering that they be stricken from the record.

Jackson’s trial date, originally scheduled for January 2020, was changed eight times, hampered in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, until it finally got underway in April 2022. Sentencing was to have taken place on Aug. 24, but as with the trial, delays ensued as Jackson’s trial attorney was granted his motion to withdraw from the case due to “a breakdown in the attorney-client working relationship.” Jason Gonzalez-Delgado was subsequently appointed by the court to represent him.

Jackson cites issues with his trial attorney as the motivation for his latest motion, claiming that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice was violated at a critical stage of the trial — the jury deliberations — which constituted an error.

“At the Jury deliberations stage, just after closing arguments, Jackson’s retained counsel-of-choice, Mr. Yohana Mannings [sic], came to Jackson in the U.S. Marshal holding cell, playing upon Jackson’s state of anxiety and trial stress and distress, claiming he had to ‘leave now,’ his ‘father had just passed,’ ‘I’m the man of the family now,’ ‘It’s my sister’s birthday, I’m all she’s got, I’m the man in the house now …’” Jackson said in his motion.

Upon returning to the courtroom, Manning was permitted to leave and another attorney directed to sit in his stead, Jackson said. “That was a structural error of the first magnitude. As the other attorney knew nothing of Jackson’s case. And did not have any objections or input, when the deliberating jury returned to open court to ask questions on the law and evidence from the judge, and seeing him as Jackson’s attorney for the first time,” according to the motion.

Jackson alleges the “error” warrants an immediate reversal of his conviction because he “never knowingly or voluntarily relinquished that Constitutional Amendment VI right voluntarily and knowingly. Jackson never went to law school. And was pressured by Yohana M. Mannings’ [sic] insincere appeals to Jackson’s impaired sympathy,” the motion states.

Malloy had not ruled on the motions as of Friday.

Jackson was convicted in April 2022 of producing child pornography, transporting minors for the purpose of committing sex crimes, and first- and second-degree rape. He must register as a sex offender when he completes his prison term and will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.

At his trial, the prosecution presented evidence that at the time of the offenses, Jackson’s victims were schoolgirls as young as 14 and the oldest, 16.

“It goes without saying that your actions were very, very heinous. To put it bluntly, you were having sex with children. Children have no business being in sexual relations with adults,” Molloy said at Jackson’s sentencing. “In no way am I sympathetic to you for what you have done.”

Molloy refuted a claim Jackson made about not knowing how old his victims were. Jackson, he said, was driving up to public school campuses in a flashy car to pick up female students dressed in school uniforms.

But as he pronounced the penalty, Molloy chose the middle road between the defense’s request for 15 years and the prosecution’s bid for 40 years, and sentenced Jackson to 25 years behind bars.

“I believe you are someone who can be rehabilitated, but right now, you are a danger to the community,” said Molloy. “Mr. Jackson, you have a problem, and until you recognize that, you are going to continue to be a danger to the community.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS