A sodomy case has divided a small Kansas community so deeply that attorneys had trouble finding impartial jurors, with some seeming to cast blame on the 13-year-old alleged victim.
Jacob Ewing, 22, is accused of indecent liberties and aggravated criminal sodomy, and his trial began Monday in Holton, Kan.
During jury selection, comments reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal showed potential jurors who were skeptical from the outset about the alleged victim’s veracity, and some seemed to be angling to find the girl culpable.
“If she steps out and looks like she’s 18 years old, that’s on her. That’s just how I feel about it,” one man said during jury selection.
Another wondered why, if the girl could testify, she couldn’t consent to sex with an adult.
One resident of the area, who asked to speak anonymously, told The Kansas City Star that many more potential jurors than usual were called in for selection.
“The whole town square was full of cars yesterday,” the resident said. “There’s never near that many people called up at one time.”
She added that a biker group that vocally opposes sexual abuse against children arrived at the courthouse Tuesday.
Jurors and community members may be taking sides based on the family they know better, the resident said. “If you know one family, you’re more apt to believe them than if you know the other.”
One man said the victim’s father should have supervised his daughter better, and as such he was leaning toward exonerating Ewing, according to The Capital-Journal.
Ewing was arrested five times from May to early July, according to a TV station, WIBW. Four of those arrests stemmed from rape allegations.
A now-deleted GoFundMe page entreated donations for Ewing, using the hashtag “#justiceforjake.” The campaign drew more than $1,500 before its removal.
A Facebook group supporting Ewing’s alleged victims uploaded a photo with the text: “She shouldn’t have to be your sister, friend, or daughter to be believed.”
The Capital-Journal reported special prosecutor Jacqie Spradling said the community discussed the case extensively on social media prior to the trial.
Seven women and five men were ultimately selected from a pool of 142 jurors, and the trial is expected to conclude by Friday.