The U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking a sentence of 30 to 40 years in prison for John Jackson, the onetime Olympic boxer found guilty of multiple sex crimes against minors at his jury trial in April in V.I. District Court.
Jackson, 33, who trolled St. Thomas high schools and social media for his victims, including one who was 14 and in the ninth grade when they met, was convicted on April 22 of production of child pornography; three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; first-degree rape; and second-degree aggravated rape.
Held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since his arrest in February 2019, Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 24. A status hearing is set for Wednesday.
In her sentencing memorandum filed Monday, U.S. Attorney Delia Smith laid out the case for the proposed sentence under federal guidelines, detailing Jackson’s predatory behavior, his complete lack of remorse, and his attempts to portray himself as an unwitting victim, tarnish his victims’ reputations, and dissuade them from testifying.
While Jackson’s trial centered on the testimony of three victims, “they do not represent all the minors that the Defendant exploited,” according to Smith’s memorandum. The government discovered three more victims who were afraid to participate in the criminal proceedings, given the community backlash that the girls who did speak out endured, she said.
“Still, these additional three minors do not represent the extent of the Defendant’s predatory nature. Statements by all the victims in this matter, as well as statements by other individuals, show the Defendant’s predatory behavior,” Smith’s memorandum states.
“Like many predators, the Defendant would initiate contact with the minors, make them feel good, loved, special and unique, and then over time begin to exploit them sexually. Based on how the initial victims were treated in the news and in public, many victims refrained from reporting their experiences with the Defendant, and the initial victims were reluctant to provide names of other victims they were aware of or had heard of,” it says.
Jackson’s arrest on Feb. 6, 2019, came after a friend of one of the victims convinced her to tell her father about the abuse, and he filed a police report. The child pornography conviction stems from a video found on the girl’s cellphone that Jackson made of them having sex when she was 15 and he was 30.
The three victims who testified in court detailed how Jackson would ply them with marijuana cigarettes and brownies before engaging them in sex – at his home, in a delivery truck he drove, in his car, and at a house near Brookman Road – but never took the drug himself, the memorandum states.
In one instance, he convinced two of the victims to engage in a threesome with him, according to the memorandum. One was in the ninth grade at the time, and the other in the 10th grade. In another instance, he dropped by a victim’s school to give her Plan B, a type of birth control that seeks to prevent pregnancy immediately after sexual intercourse, said Smith.
Following his arrest, Jackson, who represented the USVI in boxing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, sought to discredit his victims, exhaust their resolve as he sought delay after delay, and to obstruct the case, the memorandum states.
“At the outset, the Defendant tried to convince one of the victims not to move forward with the charges because he has children. Additionally, the Defendant would wait until the eve of jury selection and trial to complain that his lawyers have been ineffective, causing the court to appoint new counsel and delay the start of trial,” according to the memorandum, referring to numerous filings by Jackson complaining of ineffective counsel. His fifth and current lawyer, Yohanna Manning, has a motion to withdraw pending before the court — his second such motion since March.
“While the Defendant has a right to legitimately seek effective counsel, we believe his was a tactic to extend the trial hoping to exhaust the victims so that they would be no longer interested in participating, which was very effective,” Smith stated in the memorandum.
“The victims became frustrated when they were constantly being subpoenaed and subjected to criticism on social media every time the trial date approached. They were tired of being reminded that it was almost time to go before the public and speak of their sexual experiences with the Defendant, and of being called about the status of the case that was seemingly going nowhere,” the memorandum states.
Further, while Jackson knew that he had exploited minors, he continued to promote a narrative that he was the victim of a minor misrepresenting her age, filing documents with the court regarding age misrepresentation by one of the victims in an unrelated matter that were then circulated on social media just a few days before the start of his trial, according to the memorandum.
“Additionally, individuals created fake accounts on social media and messaged the victims or made public postings about the victims. At a related hearing, we learned that at least one victim in this case was approached by friends, acquaintances, and/or family members of the Defendant, who offered to pay the victim in exchange for the victim not to testify,” the memorandum states.
“The Defendant’s arrest and conviction marked the turning point in his years of child exploitation. But nothing would end the trauma, reverse lost childhood years, undo innocence taken or eradicate the tongue lashing or social media bashing that the victims in this case have endured due to the Defendant’s deliberate acts of sexual abuse,” Smith wrote.
“The Defendant has used vulnerable victims to satisfy his sexual pleasures and, when apprehended, has played, and continues to play the role of the victim in this matter. The Defendant chose to use his power, influence, charms, money, vehicle, apartment, boxing facility, alcohol, and weed to exploit minors,” the memorandum states.
Jackson’s actions and the subsequent publicity surrounding his case “have turned the victims’ lives upside down,” Smith said. “This ordeal has affected familial relationships, friendships and has left the victims broken and trying to decipher how to repair their lives. The victims have been harshly ridiculed by their own community and peers. The healing they will have to undergo may take a lifetime. To date, the Defendant has shown no remorse.”
According to federal sentencing guidelines, production of child pornography carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years; transportation of a minor, 10 years to life; first-degree rape, 10 to 30 years; and aggravated rape in the second degree, a sentence of 10 years to life.
In calling for a 30- to 40-year sentence and for Jackson to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Smith said the court needs to send a message to the community and to others who might commit such crimes.
“Victim blaming is still prevalent in our community. As such, predators have destroyed the lives of minors with little to no repercussion, and victims have not felt comfortable with reporting these instances of abuse. It is important that the judicial system send a message to this community that these crimes are serious and will not be tolerated,” Smith wrote.