COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A Boone County jury ruled late Thursday night that a Jefferson City man is guilty of second-degree rape.
Boone County assistant prosecutor Jessica Caldera said sentencing for Jemell Butler could start on March 2.
The jury began discussing the case against Butler at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Prosecutors claim Butler raped a 20-year-old woman he met in downtown Columbia on April 8, 2017 in a wooded area off Oak Street.
Assistant Boone County prosecutor Jessica Caldera said Butler walked with the woman for 30 minutes to the area north of downtown. It was there, the woman told police, that Butler pulled down her pants and raped her. The woman said she punched Butler during this, and that he ran off after fighting him.
A DNA analysis done by the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab found a sperm cell fraction in the underwear of the woman. A profile of it matched Butler's.
"He [preyed] on the victim in this case when she was drunk and alone, separated from her friends downtown," Caldera said. "Because she experienced significant trauma and was focused on surviving the rape rather than memorizing his face, the victim was not able to provide a detailed physical description of Jemell Butler to law enforcement in April 2017. He caused that trauma and nearly got away with raping this victim."
Butler took the stand in his own defense Thursday afternoon. He told the jury that the woman asked him for sex that night in exchange for money and marijuana. Butler said he did not want to pay the woman the full amount agreed upon, and only gave her a little of both on the way to the area off Oak Street, where the two had oral sex.
Caldera disputed Butler's claim that the woman made such an offer. When questioned by Caldera, Butler said he did not know how his sperm would have ended up in her underwear.
Defense attorneys Derek Roe and Daniel Hickman with the public defender's office declined to comment on Thursday night.
A separate jury acquitted Butler in 2016 of sexually assaulting a woman he met on the internet, but did convict him of stealing the woman's phone as he tried to run away from her. Prosecutors dropped a sodomy charge against Butler in another case in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and felonious restraint. Butler served 120 days of his 10-year sentence after qualifying for the state's "shock incarceration" program.