Judge Teddy Hartley sentenced John Jacobs, 21, of Clovis to 18 months probation Thursday morning in Curry County District Court on a single count of attempted criminal sexual penetration. The charge stems from a July 26, 2002, incident that was originally prosecuted as a case of date rape.
Jacobs was initially prosecuted on one count of criminal sexual penetration in Portales and four counts in Clovis.
He was found innocent of the rape charge in Portales, and during the first of four rape trials in Clovis, he worked out a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Jacobs agreed to enter an Alford plea to attempted criminal sexual penetration — maintaining his innocence while admitting sufficient evidence exists to convict. He also agreed to be listed as a New Mexico sex offender. In return, prosecutors agreed in December to drop the remaining charges and send Jacobs to the state Department of Corrections for a diagnostic evaluation.
In his decision, Hartley rejected the request of Deputy District Attorney Andrea Reeb to impose the maximum penalty of 18 months in jail. She cited a warning from the diagnostic evaluator that Jacobs poses a serious risk to re-offend.
Hartley had critical words for the accused and for the victim.
“There’s no right or wrong person here; they’re both in the wrong,” Hartley said. “Mr. Jacobs, certainly you are opportunistic, maybe even a predator. There’s no pride in the victim’s position here today, either; this whole thing could have been avoided if either of you had any sense.”
Hartley said the circumstances surrounding the 2002 incident were crucial to his decision, including a graphic lap dance and extensive use of alcohol by a group of minors in a house with no adult supervision.
“I think the problem is Mr. Jacobs perceived he had done no wrong in his alcohol-impaired state,” Hartley said. “I think the victim perceived she could go almost all the way and then Mr. Jacobs would support her wishes and her character as a friend when she said ‘no.’”
Hartley said he didn’t lightly decide to go against the recommendation of the written diagnostic evaluation, which included jail time.
Noting the evaluation said Jacobs had “a sense of arrogance and entitlement,” Reeb urged Hartley to give Jacobs the maximum possible sentence in a facility where he could receive sex offender treatment.
Jacobs’ attorney, Gerald Baca, disagreed.
“Yes, it’s been maintained that he might have some arrogance or cockiness about himself, but that’s part of being an athlete,” Baca told the judge.
“If you don’t carry yourself with confidence, you may not get very far in life. I don’t think that’s a character flaw, that’s something he has used to get ahead in life.”
Baca also reminded the judge that under the Alford plea Jacobs was under no obligation to admit guilt.
“He has not admitted a rape and never will because he does not believe he ever committed a rape,” Baca said.
In addition to his 18 months of supervised probation, Hartley ordered Jacobs to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender treatment, make victim restitution and have no contact with the victims.
“There is absolutely no doubt that we are going to have to have treatment. The only question is going to be where he should get that treatment. … I don’t believe he deserves any prison time,” Hartley said. “Knowing this doesn’t suit a lot of people well, it’s the best we can do under the circumstances.”
Following the sentence, Jacobs asked his attorney to speak to the media for him. Baca said his client was happy with the decision.
“He’ll continue with his education at Clovis Community College,” Baca said. “He’ll continue to work and hopefully he’ll be able to continue with his relationship with his girlfriend and one day he’ll marry and have his own family.”
Reeb said the women who accused Jacobs didn’t want to speak to the media but were sorry he didn’t serve jail time.
“I’m disappointed but I’m proud of the victims for actively coming forward,” Reeb said. “The judge made his decision, and my concern is the diagnostic evaluation was so strong about releasing a predator onto the streets. I just hope he doesn’t offend again.”