Bradenton man faces 35 years in prison for having sex with a minor in exchange for rock cocaine

jdeleon@bradenton.comJanuary 10, 2014 


MANATEE -- A Bradenton man is facing up to 35 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of sex with a minor and giving her rock cocaine in exchange for sex.

After about three hours of deliberations, the jury of six found Donald James, 47, guilty of three of four counts. James was convicted of lewd and lascivious battery, principal to lewd and lascivious battery and child abuse. The jury found him not guilty of procuring a minor for prostitution.

"The state is pleased with the verdict and thanks the jury," Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten said after the verdict was announced.

James was arrested on Sept. 28, 2011, after being identified by the victim. He remains in custody at the Manatee County jail until his sentencing hearing, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 27.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor reminded the jury how James had admitted to having sex with the victim, using a condom and giving her rock cocaine in exchange for sex during part of his interview with Bradenton Police Detective Kevin Bunch.

"He admitted as much as he had to, because that's what people do," Iten said. "He admits to actual sex, at the point he feels he has no other choice."

Defense attorney Hannah Bugg argued that the victim's memory of the sexual encounters were "mixed-up" because of cocaine use.

The defense further argued that James was trying to cooperate with authorities when they claim he admitted to the crimes.

"Throughout this interview Donald was led to believe his honesty was going to help him," Bugg said. "He may have known about it, but he did not receive anything for it."

An arrest report details what led to James' arrest.

In August 2011 the 15-year-old victim was walking down 14th Street West near the Sunshine Motel when she was approached by Anissa Lawson, who offered her rock cocaine, according to an arrest report. The two then went back to Lawson's apartment in the 1800 block of 14th Street West.

It was while at Lawson's apartment that the victim met Lawson's boyfriend, James. The victim told them both that she was 15 years old.

A couple days later the victim returned to Lawson's home and Lawson propositioned her, telling her that in order for them to buy more rock cocaine she could have sex with men for money. Lawson would collect a finder's fee for setting it up, the report states.

The victim told detectives that James had wanted to have sex with her and offered her rock cocaine in exchange. Lawson reportedly was in the room watching and after having sex with James, the victim smoked the rock cocaine.

James later admitted to detectives that he had sex with the victim. Additionally, James admitted to detectives that he and his girlfriend had arranged for the victim to have sex with others for rock cocaine, according to the report.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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