Charles Jordan, second from left, and his defense attorney C. Marty Haug, third from left, await the verdict Friday in Jordan’s trial on five counts of exploitation of a child. Jordan was found guilty on all five counts and will be sentenced Aug. 18. Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff
August 2, 2020 12:56:56 AM
A former Starkville police officer was convicted Friday on five counts of exploitation of a child after a three-day trial in which he testified in his own defense.
The jury deliberated for two hours before convicting Jordan after hearing testimony from the female victim, now 20, her mother and multiple law enforcement officers.
Jordan claimed Thursday on the witness stand that he believed the victim was 19 at the time -- she was actually 16 and he was 32 -- when he sent her sexually explicit photos and videos in February 2017 and asked her four times to send some in return. The fifth exploitation charge came from asking her to "meet with him for the purpose of engaging in sexually explicit conduct," according to circuit court documents.
The Starkville board of aldermen voted in June 2017 to suspend Jordan from the police force without pay after the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office began investigating the inappropriate texts he sent. Jordan later resigned.
Jordan's defense attorney, C. Marty Haug, and Assistant District Attorney Trina Davidson-Brooks questioned Jordan for several hours on Thursday under the supervision of Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens.
Haug asserted in his closing argument to the jury on Friday that there was no solid proof, only speculation, that Jordan knew the victim was a minor.
Davidson-Brooks said the testimony against Jordan proved he did know she was a minor and the text messages proved his behavior was exploitative. She called Jordan "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
"As you saw the evidence and the witnesses who testified, you (can) see how the wool on the sheep began to fall off," she said.
Jordan will be sentenced Aug. 18 in Clay County Circuit Court, where Kitchens said he has a prior commitment that day. He faces up to 40 years in prison.
Background of the case
Jordan was one of two officers that responded to a call from the victim's mother in November 2016 saying that her two daughters had run away from home.
Both the mother and the other responding officer, Colby Huffman, testified Wednesday that she told the two officers that her children were both under the age of 18. Jordan claimed the mother never said that, but Huffman repeated his testimony Thursday at Davidson-Brooks' request.
The mother told the officers that her daughters were at their grandmother's home, where Jordan met the victim in person for the first and only time. Jordan claimed that she told him she was 19, which lined up with the birth date on what he thought was her Facebook profile. However, she testified Wednesday that she did not create the Facebook page Jordan referenced.
The page included her cell phone number, and Jordan initiated their text conversations in February 2017. Between Feb. 15 and March 10, he sent her several pictures of his genitals and bragged about his sexual prowess in both text messages and audio clips, all presented as evidence during the trial. He also asked at one point when he could meet her and implied he wanted to have sex with her.
Jordan consistently denied knowing she was underage until March 2017, at which point he stopped texting her. He knew she was in school, but he said he believed she attended Mississippi State University when she actually attended Starkville High School.
'We knew what he meant'
Jordan debated the semantics of his text messages while Davidson-Brooks was questioning him, claiming his requests for "pics" were just that since he did not specifically ask the victim for nude photos.
Davidson-Brooks countered that asking for any kind of photos immediately after sending pictures of his genitals had a clear implication.
"We're adults, we knew what he was texting, we knew what he meant," she said in her closing argument. "He wasn't asking for a school picture. It was quid pro quo. He sent her sexual pictures of himself... and what did he want in return? He wanted the same thing. He wanted nude pics."
Jordan later admitted that some of his texts were requests for explicit photos, and he also admitted he lied to OCSO Capt. Brett Watson at the start of the investigation. He first told Watson he had never met the victim, and he later said he knew she attended SHS, not MSU.
She never sent Jordan the explicit photos he requested and never agreed to meet with him, according to the evidence.
Davidson-Brooks pointed out that Jordan initiated almost every conversation with the victim, including when he asserted that she "forgot about" him after she did not text him for several days in March 2017.
Haug, who is also District 3 Justice Court Judge in Oktibbeha County, countered by pointing out that the victim responded to almost every text and appeared to be enthusiastic about some of his more explicit comments.
The victim became tearful on the witness stand Wednesday, and Haug during closing arguments alleged her crying was fake and called it "despicable." Davidson-Brooks disagreed.
"She was 16 at the time and she's now 20," Davidson-Brooks said. "She's matured enough to understand that what was going on wasn't right."
At the end of the trial, the victim cried again upon hearing the jury's unanimous guilty verdict.
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