Sunday, May 31, 2009

Berea, KY man sentenced to 31 years in prison for rape, attack on estranged wife

On May 28, Jessie Brian Conner, 29, of Berea, KY, was sentenced to 31 years in prison for the rape and assault on his then estranged wife. After the verdict, police officers and detectives ejected Conner from the courtroom after he said "I hope you're happy" to the prosecutors and victim.

The rape occured last October 30, after the victim got off of work and took their daughter to kindergarten. Conner was hiding in the victim's home and suprised her in a closet. The perp listened as the victim called her brother, then his roommate. He checked the cell phone numbers, convinced that she was having sex with other men. Then the violence began.

He hit her behind the left ear and batted her head with his hands as if it were a basketball, she said, and then hit her with the butt of a .22 caliber rifle he had brought to the house.“He hit me on the head until the gun broke,” she said.When the stock separated from the rifle, she said he yelled, “You stupid bitch, you made me break my fucking gun on your fucking head.”

After the physical assault, Conner had his victim take off her clothes, when he raped her vaginally and anally. He also thretened a murder-suicide if she screamed, saying “One shot and you’re dead. Two shots and I’m dead.”

Then Conner fired bullets past his victim which landed in their daughter's bedroom, bulletts which passed through a pillow before lodging in the wall. After he did this, he tied the victim up to their daughter's bed, where he raped her again. “He said he was going to tie me up, so he could get away.”

Under questioning by [defense attorney Eric] Ashley, Conner’s ex-wife said their earlier sex life had included anal intercourse but never bondage.The blows to her head caused severe pain, dizziness and nausea, she testified.

“I was still screaming, begging him to leave,” she said. “He threatened to tape my mouth with duct tape so I couldn’t scream.” In response to her pleas, she said Conner eventually allowed her to leave and seek medical attention, but she had to promise to tell emergency-room personnel her injuries were caused by a fall in the shower.

“I had to get my hair wet before he would let me leave,” she said. Conner forced her to drive him to his truck which was hidden behind a Glades Road convenience store, she said.

Instead of driving immediately to the hospital, she said she drove to her brother’s home to ask him to take her to the hospital and then to get her daughter. She said she feared Conner, who had destroyed her cell phone, would retrieve their daughter from school.She was examined at St. Joseph Hospital-Berea, which summoned Berea Police.

Jury deliberations took over 2 1/2 hours. Recommended sentences were 20 years each for the rape and sodomy charges, 10 years for burglary, and 5 years for assault. The verdict form handed to Circuit Judge William G. Clouse stated that the total sentence would be 31 years. Conner was previously convicted of misdemeanor theft, DUI, and and a federal conviction for conspiracy to possess oxycodone with the intent to distribute.

The verdict came after an emotional morning during which Ashley called several members of Conner’s family, including his mother, to testify.Conner’s mother was at times choked by tears as she described how Conner, her only son, had suffered from drug addiction in the years following his father’s death, and pleaded with the jury to show mercy toward her son.

In his closing statement, Ashley had asked the jury for the minimum sentence, focusing on Conner’s young children and the effect a long sentence would have on his relationship with them.“You’ve heard some emotional testimony today about what Jessie Brian Conner means to his family,” Ashley said.

Judge Clouse has to decide which parts of the sentences will be served concurrently and consecutively to arrive at 31 years. Conner must serve 85% of the rape and sodomy charges and 20% of the assault and burglary charges before parole eligibility.

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