Two life sentences for repeat sex offender affirmed
Special to the Democrat
Oct 13, 2018
The two convictions and consecutive life sentences a Parker County jury assessed to a 47-year-old Aledo man last year for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl were affirmed on appeal in an opinion issued Thursday.
“There were two things in our case against Joshua Townley that stood out as being particularly egregious,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeff Swain, who tried the case for the prosecution. “First of all, Mr. Townley repeatedly sexually abused the victim from the time she was 10 to 14 years old. Secondly, some years ago, he had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for doing the same thing to a 14-year-old girl while he was in the U.S. Navy.”
The victim, now 15, who fought through tears at times when she testified, told jurors that Townley had started molesting her when she was 10 years old and that the sexual acts got progressively worse over the years. She said that he threatened to harm her, her mother, and her brother if she told anyone or refused.
The victim’s mother testified that one morning when they were on the way to school, her daughter broke down shaking and crying and told her what Townley had been doing to her. After the mother reported the abuse to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office later that day, Inv. Josh Pitman was assigned to the case.
Jurors watched an interview that Pitman had with the defendant in which Townley admitted to having the victim masturbate him and perform oral sex. Townley said that she did this because “she was curious” and denied threatening her.
That interview was the subject of one of Townley’s complaints on appeal. He contended that the confession occurred when he was in the custody of law enforcement and that he was never read his Miranda rights. Therefore, the defense argued, District Judge Craig Towson should not have admitted evidence of the statement.
In denying that claim, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth pointed out that Townley came to the sheriff’s office of his own accord and left after the hour long interview, he was never placed under arrest or put in handcuffs, and was even told he was “free to go” at any time.
“Miranda warnings only apply to people who are in police custody and are being questioned,” Swain said. “They simply weren’t necessary in this case at the time of the interview.”
Townley also complained that he should get a new trial because the prosecution was permitted to introduce military court judgments showing the previous sexual abuse conviction during the guilt-innocence phase of trial.
“A law that became effective in 2014 permits jurors to hear evidence from other victims of child sexual abuse as proof that sexually abusing children is in the defendant’s character,” Swain said. “This can be very powerful evidence, whether it’s in the form of a victim testifying about what the defendant did to them or court records showing a prior adjudication for a sexual abuse case.”
After considering all of Townley’s appellate points, the appeals court ruled that “there was no error in the trial court’s judgment.”
With Towson’s order stacking the sentences, Townley will not be eligible for parole until the year 2076, Swain said.