The waiver hearing to determine if two Morristown men—juveniles at the time of an alleged sexual assault in 2011—can be tried as adults began Thursday with detailed and at times graphic descriptions of the alleged incident.
The two men, along with 19-year-old Tyrec Phillips—an adult at the time of the alleged incident who has appeared in adult criminal court—are accused of giving a 17-year-old girl something to drink at a Hazel Street home in September 2011 that caused her to fall in and out of consciousness. The three then allegedly drove the unconscious girl to a secluded spot on Monroe Street, near Evergreen Cemetery, where they are accused of having sex with her.
Phillips was released Sept. 21 from jail on $100,000 bail—. Meanwhile, the two 18-year-olds currently being tried as juveniles have remained in juvenile detention since summer.
Prosecutors are seeking to convince Morris County Superior Court Family Division Judge Michael Paul Wright that the two unnamed men should be charged as adults in the case. If convicted as adults, they could face up to 20 years in prison, compared to the maximum juvenile sentence of four years.
The main witness for the day was Morristown Police Detective Tyrone Jackson, who was questioned about two taped conversations that took place during his investigation of the incident.
The first was a “consensual phone call” on May 22 between one of the suspects and the alleged victim. The call was arranged by Morristown Police after the she reported the incident, nine months after it is supposed to have taken place.
Prosecution has said it had taken that long for friends to finally convince the alleged victim to speak out.
Defense attorneys Randy Davenport and Dean Maglione raised objections to the playing of the tape, saying they felt Jackson could have been providing questions to the victim. Maglione raised concerns about Jackson’s testimony, saying he wrote down some words or phrases during the phone conversation that were then passed to the victim.
But the officer said he was only reacting to the girl’s comments and demeanor. He said he could not hear the defendant’s side of the conversation. Jackson said the consensual phone call was arranged to help the victim recall the event, as she said she had been very drunk.
“We learned that there was more than one” alleged attacker, Jackson said. “She thought that one person had assaulted her. She learned that more than one, that three people assaulted her.”
The second tape was of an Aug. 16 interview with the second defendant, conducted at Morristown Police headquarters. In this interview the defendant describes the party scene at the Hazel Street home where he, his friends and the alleged victim had been drinking.
The alleged victim became ill and vomited “four or five times” and asked to be driven home, the defendant says during the taped interview.
The defendant says he drove and that the victim, the other juvenile defendant and Phillips joined them in the car. Instead of taking her home, however, the defendant says in the taped interview they drove to a spot off Monroe Street where the alleged sexual assault took place.
The accused describes the alleged incident in graphic detail during the taped interview and said Phillips recorded the incident.
Jackson asks in the taped interview if the victim at any time said “stop,” to which the defendant said, "yes."
The closed hearing will continue at 2 p.m. Friday at the Morris County Courthouse.