/Former Troy students convicted

Former Troy students convicted

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Kat Rogers

Staff Writer

Ryan Austin Calhoun, 22, and Delonte Martistee, 22, both former Troy students, will be sentenced on Oct. 21 after being convicted last week of sexual battery committed at Panama City Beach, Florida.

The crime took place behind clubs Spinnaker and La Vela, during spring break 2015.

“Probably one of the most disgusting, repulsive, sickening things that I have seen this year on Panama City Beach,” Frank McKeithen, Bay County sheriff, said in response to the incident in spring of 2015.

This case is one of two major crimes committed during spring break 2015 that caused officials to implement several new spring-break-related laws. The other crime involved a shooting at a house party.

The Panama City Beach City Council approved a proposal May 2015 to ban alcohol on the beach during the month of March.

There were no major incidents on the beach during spring break season of 2016.

McKeithen said he hopes the suspects, Calhoun and Martistee, receive the maximum sentence.

“Certainly they (Calhoun and Martistee) deserve life because unlike homicide, this person (the victim) has to live with this the rest of her life,” McKeithen said.

The men, along with several other perpetrators, were charged following what law enforcement officials are calling a “gang rape.” Their conviction came after a lengthy trial.

Calhoun and Martistee were handcuffed, fingerprinted and taken into custody following the verdict on Sept. 15, 2016, after two hours of deliberation.

The jury had over seven hours’ worth of testimony from the defense, law enforcement officers, friends of the accused, the defendants and the victim.

The unedited video of the victim incapacitated lying on a beach while the two defendants and an unknown male sexually fondled her in broad daylight was used as the main form of evidence alongside witnesses’ testimony.

George Kennedy, the victim’s ex-boyfriend, was originally arrested as another perpetrator in the case. Charges against him were dropped in January 2016 because the video depicted him as a bystander.

Kennedy neither participated, nor did anything to stop it, according to a news report. He was approached by the defense to testify on its behalf. Kennedy and the victim had known each other since grade school and had been dating for years up until the incident, according to court records.

Kennedy testified that the victim left him with Calhoun, and she had money with the intent to buy the recreational drug “molly.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, molly is commonly known as Ecstasy and “is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.”

The next time Kennedy saw the victim, she was incoherent and eventually fell unconscious, according to Kennedy’s testimony.  The victim became aware once the defendants started digitally penetrating her.

According to TUSLA Family and Child Agency website, “ ‘Digital penetration’ involve(s) putting fingers in the vagina or anus, or both. Usually the victim is penetrated by the offender.”

Her friends had to carry her off the beach later in the day on March 8.

Following the incident in 2015, the then couple ­­— Kennedy and the victim  —stayed in Panama City two more days before going to Kennedy’s mother for a night in Atlanta.

Kennedy said the victim did not seem fearful of him or express any concern about his behavior following the event.

The victim stated in her testimony that she remembered very little from that day on the beach. She stated that she was handed a drink and “blacked out” for the rest of the day.

The bulk of the state of Florida’s case was built around her and Kennedy’s testimony that she was not conscious or in a sober state of mind, and was therefore unable to consent to the actions done to her in the video.

Rudolph Shepard and Jean Marie Downing, lawyers for the defendants, claimed that on March 8, 2015, the victim approached both Calhoun and Martistee, aggressively coming onto them and looking for molly.

They claimed she continued her advances even after telling her they did not have any of the drug. They claimed that the victim then put herself between them while guiding their hands in between her legs, clearly giving consent.

In a sworn statement a month following the incident on March 8, Martistee told Capt. Jason Daffin of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, “I don’t just violate a woman like that.”

The two men were put under temporary suspension from Troy University, and because they never requested a hearing, their suspension became permanent.

”There were established guidelines long before this happened; however, due to an increasing number of sexual assault cases on campuses across the nation, more emphasis has been placed on this issue,” said Herbert Reeves, dean of student services.

This case has caused greater attention for sexual assault. Through the SaVE Act and other policies, education and enforcement of previously established on-campus policies have become more of a focal point for the university.

According to the campus SaVE Act website, “The Campus SaVE Act refers to the recent Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amendments to the Clery Act. The Campus SaVE Act is an update to the Clery Act, expanding the scope of this legislation in terms of reporting, response, and prevention education requirements around rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

In addition, bystander intervention has become another point because of the circumstances surrounding this case.

“Do not stand by and watch a person be victimized. Let someone know this is happening or put a stop to it,” Reeves said. “Additionally, more regulations have been put in place under Title IX for investigating and dealing with sexual assaults,  whether on campus or off.”

According to the Office for Civil Rights and the United States Department of Education, Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Calhoun and Martistee have been held without bail.

They will be sentenced for first-degree felony sexual battery on Oct. 21. The defense does plan to appeal the conviction, according to news reports.