Former police officer sentenced to life in prison in St. Johns County molestation case

February 15, 2013

A St. Johns County man convicted in December of three counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery was sentenced to life in prison on each count last week. James Scharfschwerdt was accused of molesting one boy after getting teens to his home by promising fishing trips and alcohol, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. All three St. Augustine Sex Charges involved the same teen, who is now 19, the newspaper reported.

During the trial, Scharfschwerdt admitted to giving boys alcohol and swimming naked with them, but denied molesting anyone. All of his Florida sex charges centered around one boy, but three other teens also testified during the trial that Scharfschwerdt did the same thing to them. That's where there could be an issue in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case. If the state had enough evidence to charge Scharfschwerdt in the three other cases, then it should have prosecuted the cases. If not, they should not have been able to testify.

State law, under the Williams Rule, allows testimony related to similar crimes, but the testimony cannot be used as a "feature" of the trial. In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case, it likely changed the entire makeup of the trial. With the victim and Scharfschwerdt being the lone witnesses to the alleged molestation, the case is a classic St. Johns County Sex Crimes case with one person's word against another's. But with three other boys testifying, despite the fact the state chose not to prosecute their cases, the jury is presented with an entirely different scenario. The jury is presented with a pattern of Scharfschwerdt's behavior, which would have to have an impact in the jury's mind as to whether he is guilty of molesting the one boy he was charged with molesting. People are naturally inclined to put more weight in a story where four people are saying a similar thing, as opposed to just one.

Defense attorneys argued for a new trial, specifically based on allowing the testimony of the other three boys, the newspaper reported. The judge denied the request, but it is likely that decision will be appealed to a higher court and one can never predict what may happen there. From the perspective of a St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, there's a reason why there are limitations on what a jury is allowed to hear in a case. For example, if someone is on trial for a DUI, the jury does not know if it's a person's first offense or if they've been convicted of a similar crime before. And that applies to convictions. In this case, Scharfschwerdt wasn't even charged, much less convicted in the three other alleged crimes. Sex crimes are often seen differently than other crimes and there's a propensity among jurors to assume that if an accusation is made, then it must be true. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of sex crimes in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. She can examine all of the evidence and potential testimony carefully to help determine what can be used against you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Duval County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.