July 14, 2002 – The following material is being published by the Source in cooperation with Territorial Court at the request of the defendant's attorney, Judith Bourne, who submitted the material.
Background on Rupert Tuitt
Rupert Tuitt, an adult, was charged with statutory rape after a high school student that he became involved with when she was 14 had his child at age 15. He acknowledged his responsibility before the birth of the child, although attempting to hide his true identity, and had agreed to support the child.
After the child was born, the Human Services Department became involved and took custody of both the girl and the baby. The girl lived with her great-grandmother, who tried to keep the teen-ager from having any further contact with Tuitt and told authorities that Tuitt was telephoning the house. Tuitt denies this and states that the girl called him and that they spoke only about the child.
Tuitt never finished high school and works at a semi-skilled job. He lives with his mother.
When conflicts between the girl and her great-grandmother caused problems in that household, Tuitt, supported by his mother, told his attorney that he wanted custody of the child. His lawyer recommended that he have a DNA test to confirm that the child was his, although he had already admitted paternity. He did so and it was confirmed.
Tuitt later pleaded guilty to statutory rape. Judge Brenda Hollar, stating that this was the most difficult sentencing decision that she has ever had to make, and that she was departing from what she would normally do in a statutory rape case, sentenced Tuitt to five years' probation without conviction. She reached the decision after a sentencing hearing that lasted more than two hours and included a review of the records of the ongoing custody action and of Tuitt's written statement, a brief oral statement by Tuitt and, with the consent of all counsel, a private interview by the judge with the girl.
Among other things, the girl, who continues to live with her great-grandmother, confirmed to the judge that she had told Tuitt her age only after she knew that she was pregnant, and that he had no sexual relations with her after that. The judge noted that in a number of other jurisdictions, including several states, the sexual contact with a girl of that age would not have been a crime, and that Tuitt had freely accepted his responsibilities.
Among other things, Hollar asked that Tuitt, with the assistance of counsel, write his story and have it published in a local newspapers. The full sentence can be found in the Territorial Court Criminal Case No. 112/01 dated Jan. 15, 2002.
"Interview" with Rupert Tuitt
You were charged with statutory rape, which is a very serious crime. How did this affect your life?
It affected me very much. I never thought that I would ever be involved in any kind of criminal act, so when I was actually arrested, I became very scared. I didn't know what might happen to me. I thought that I might have to go to jail, which was very scary.
How did you get yourself into that situation?
Through carelessness. I met the girl when she came to my job in the evening to speak with her cousin, who worked with me. She was very friendly and kept coming back to speak to me. It never occurred to me that she might be underage. I didn't find out her age until she became pregnant.
You know that the law does not excuse you for not knowing that the girl is underage; it is your responsibility to make sure that any person that you have a sexual involvement with is at least over the age of consent.
This has made that very clear to me. Not only that, I now know, and want other young men to know, that you cannot rely on how mature a young woman may look or act. You can't even just take her word for her age, because if she doesn't tell you the truth, you can get into a lot of trouble.
Many people think that you got off easy because the judge did not send you to jail and gave you the opportunity to not have a criminal record. Do you think you got off easy?
Not at all. This past year has been terrible for me. A lot of people who know me and my family have lost respect for me. I really have to be thankful to the few people, like my mother, who really stood by me. And this situation has really changed my life. Now I have a child, a daughter. Before, as long as I had a little job and some money, I was happy. Now I have to think about my daughter, and that is a long-term thing. I am trying to become more financially stable because I have this responsibility.
As soon as I knew that the girl was pregnant (I don't want to call her name publicly), I accepted the responsibility. I was worried, because that is when I found out that she was only 14, but I still knew that I had to remain involved. One thing, though: I did not have sex with her after I found out her age.
After my daughter was born, because the girl's family situation then was not too stable, I asked for custody of my daughter, and because of certain circumstances I was able to have her live with me and my mother from the time she was 8 months until she was almost a year. I have supported her and will continue to do so and will always be an important part of her life.
I didn't do these things to look good. I did them because I believed that they were the right things to do and I wanted to do them. But it turned out that the judge really appreciated that I had taken up my responsibilities. She said that this was what made the difference in the way that she treated me from what she would normally do in this kind of a case. I think that the judge recognized that I really did not intend to take advantage of an underage girl, especially since the girl herself confirmed that I did not know her age until told me that she was pregnant and that I never touched her after that. Of course, by that time, the deed was done.
What has this experience taught you?
First, that you have to be very careful in what you do, because everything has its consequences and carelessness can get you into big trouble. Second, that no matter what, you have to do the right thing and accept your responsibilities.
Is there anything else that you want to say?
Yes, I am very sorry to have caused so much trouble for my daughter's mother and her family. It doesn't really matter that I did not pursue her; I am the adult, and I should have known better. I cannot undo what has happened, but I will continue to try my best to do the best thing for my child and her mother.
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