Professional boxer and former Olympian John Jackson may finally be headed to trial on charges of child pornography and rape after spending nearly two years in a Puerto Rican jail.
Jackson, 31, has pleaded not guilty to 11 criminal charges and one forfeiture charge, including first-degree rape, five counts of aggravated second-degree rape, two counts of production of child pornography and three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity.
Jackson was arrested by V.I. Police on Feb. 6, 2019, after the father of a 15-year-old girl said Jackson had plied her with alcohol and marijuana brownies and raped her, and he was initially released on bond. Jackson was subsequently arrested and charged with federal child pornography crimes after investigators found a video he allegedly made of himself having sex with the victim. Following the first child’s report, other victims came forward and prosecutors have since charged Jackson with assaulting two other girls, according to court records.
He has been in pretrial detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, since Feb. 23, 2019, after a federal judge ordered him held without bond pending trial.
Jackson’s jury trial has been delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his trial date of Jan. 11 was recently continued to Feb. 8.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy ordered that the final pretrial conference will be held Feb. 2.
Jackson’s defense attorney argued that police did not have probable cause to search his home on Feb. 23, 2019, and evidence seized during that search should be suppressed.
But “given that there was information presented to the magistrate judge that Jackson engaged in both producing and distributing the video,” Molloy wrote, the magistrate judge “had a substantial basis for concluding that there was probable cause to search Jackson’s residence and vehicle for evidence of child pornography.” However, marijuana-laced brownies found during the search must be excluded, Molloy ruled in a 25-page opinion filed Monday.
Under the “plain view” exception to warrant requirements, law enforcement officers may seize other contraband found during a search, such as illegal weapons, marijuana plants, or substances that are obviously drugs or paraphernalia. During the search of Jackson’s home, for example, police seized an orange and pink tiger-print pillow from Jackson’s bed and a Gucci hand chain, because investigators recalled seeing those items “on the child pornography video that the victim identified herself being in,” and were therefore evidence of that alleged crime, according to court records.
But Molloy found that investigators presented no evidence they had reason to believe the brownies were anything other than typical baked goods.
“Indeed, the government did not elicit any testimony regarding whether the packaging of the brownies, or any markings thereon or other visible characteristic, 15 might indicate to a trained law enforcement officer that the brownies contained marijuana,” Molloy wrote.
The victim’s statement that Jackson had given her marijuana brownies is “the only record evidence that might be argued to suggest the brownies seized on February 23, 2019, were evidence of a crime,” Molloy wrote. “Significantly, the record contains no evidence regarding the circumstances under which Jackson gave the alleged minor victim brownies or whether those brownies even contained marijuana.”
Police said the marijuana brownies seized from Jackson’s home later tested positive for marijuana. But Molloy wrote that “without any apparent connection” between the victim’s statement and the brownies found during the search, “the Court finds that agents did not have probable cause to believe the brownies seized on February 23, 2019, were evidence of a crime.”