A Kennewick man is facing 30 years behind bars after a jury Monday convicted him of putting a gun to the head of a young teen girl and raping her inside an SUV.
John Mark Crowder, 47, maintained throughout trial that he's innocent of the July attack, which started with him hanging around with two of the girl's teen friends.
But after deliberating 6 1/2 hours Friday and Monday, a Benton County Superior Court jury found him guilty of first-degree rape and two counts of distributing marijuana to a person under 18.
The rape charge includes enhancements that the victim was under 15 -- which carries a mandatory 25-year term -- and that a gun was used -- another five-year mandatory term.
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Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra had given jurors the alternative choice of the lesser charge of third-degree child rape if they couldn't find the rape involved "forcible compulsion."
Petra said it's good to have the case resolved just two months after it happened.
"This crime was committed in July of this year and normally these types of cases don't go to trial this quickly," she told the Herald. "For this child to have closure this quickly, it's a wonderful thing for this family."
The girl testified about the rape, along with her two friends who drank vodka and smoked marijuana with Crowder that night. The male friends are ages 15 and 16.
Crowder did not take the witness stand.
"Our defense was that my client was innocent of the charges. He simply didn't do it," said Scott Johnson, Crowder's attorney. "There was no evidence at all, let alone beyond a reasonable doubt, that he did it."
However, Johnson said he respects the jury's verdict and recognizes that 12 people obviously saw things differently.
"In these cases, it just kind of really challenges you when you get a verdict that you're not expecting," Johnson said.
According to court documents, Crowder was at another home July 18 when the two boys walked by. Crowder recognized them and invited the teens to hang out and light off fireworks.
When the boys admitted they smoke pot, Crowder drove them to his nearby home so they could smoke a bong in his garage, documents said.
The trio returned to the other house, where they continued to smoke pot while taking vodka shots.
At 1 a.m., the girl got a text message from one of the boys and agreed to sneak out to join them. The girl said she did not know Crowder.
When the boys passed out, Crowder reportedly told the girl she looked older than her age and forced her to drink vodka.
She started to walk home but Crowder followed and pulled out a gun, court documents said. She refused to get undressed and get in his Jeep, so Crowder pointed the gun to her head, pulled back on the hammer and proceeded to rape her, documents said.
Benton County sheriff's deputies were called July 22 when the girl told her mother what had happened.
Crowder had been out of jail on $100,000 bail but was taken into custody Monday after the verdict.
Sentencing tentatively is set for Oct. 13, though a presentencing report needs to be done by the state Department of Corrections.
The standard range for his crimes is nine years and three months to 12 years and three months, Petra said. The rape also would be an indeterminate sentence, meaning Crowder's ultimate release will be up to a state board depending on his behavior and treatment behind bars.
Johnson said at sentencing he will ask for an appeal bond so Crowder's prison term would be put on hold while he fights the conviction in the state Court of Appeals.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer