The rape of a 16-year-old girl at Chamberlain High School last year sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Area. Now, the case against 17-year-old Joshua Bynum is over without ever going to trial.
Nearly one year after Bynum dragged a girl into a bathroom at Chamberlain and sexually battered her, he struck a deal with prosecutors.
Judge Chet Tharpe handed the teenager 10 years' probation, along with a stern warning:
"Make no mistake young man, you violate your probation, I will send you to prison. You understand me?" he said.
On October 3, 2011, the 16-year-old girl told police she left her classroom to grab something from her locker. She said as she passed a boys' restroom on her way back to class, Bynum pulled her inside and raped her.
Prosecutor Courtney Derry acknowledged there were certain weaknesses in the case, including a statement from the victim's classmate, who said the sexual encounter was not forced.
"The victim informed her that she was going into the bathroom to 'you know what' with the defendant, and that she planned to have sex with him on that date," Derry said.
Defense attorney Steve Crawford, who is not connected to the case, says sexual battery cases are hard to prove in court.
"It's his word against hers," he said.
Crawford says the plea deal and light sentence may have more to do with sparing the young victim from going through a trial.
"The trauma that a rape victim must go through on a jury trial often re-victimizes them and that's an important thing to keep in mind. That's why often the state will work a plea agreement so they don't have to re-live the episode," Crawford said.
Nichole Cason with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay says many rapes in Hillsborough County go unreported, and those who do come forward have a hard time coping day to day.
"A trauma like this is going to affect somebody for the rest of their life, and get to a normal, which may be a new normal that they didn't have before," Cason said.
Bynum pleaded guilty to felony battery. He is expected to be released from the Hillsborough County Jail on Monday.
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