Kid Zone Mentor Charged with Lewd and Lascivious Behavior
December 13, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes Social Share
When an adult inappropriately touches a minor, one of the charges they may be faced with is lewd and lascivious behavior. In the state of Florida, there are different variations of the lewd and lascivious charges depending on the specific details of the case.
A Central Florida mentor has recently been arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior after being accused of sexually groping a teenager. This article will provide details from the case, along with information on lewd and lascivious charges in Florida.
What was the Incident?
DeMarcus Womack, 31, was arrested on December 7th, 2022 after being accused of sexually molesting a teenager in November. Womack was working as a youth mentor for Orlando’s Parramore Kidz Zone when the incident took place. This program was established by Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer in an effort to help children in Orlando’s poorest neighborhood.
According to the report, Womack met up with a 17-year-old girl—whose name has been redacted in an emergency warrant obtained after the arrest—in the stairwell of an apartment complex on November 27th, 2022.
The two agreed to meet to mourn the death of their mutual friend, Gamaine Brown. The 19-year-old was shot and killed at a Jones High School football game in November. Prior to Brown’s death, Womack worked as his mentor.
The victim told police that when she met the mentor at the complex, Womack groped her and forced himself onto her. She also reported that when she attempted to stand up and leave, Womack “yanked her back down.”
The teenage girl originally kept the act a secret, fearful of retaliation if she told anyone. However, she decided to confide in her mother several days later, who had her report the incident to the authorities.
Police received screenshots of the teen’s Instagram messages with Womack. In one message, Womack allegedly asked the victim if he went too far that night. He then requested that she delete their messages, saying he “ain’t [trying to] be in no [expletive].”
“Am I wrong for asking you to delete it?” he said in another message, according to the affidavit.
Womack has since been charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior. The defendant was released on bond from the Orange County Jail.
Differences Between Lewd and Lascivious Charges
Chapter 800 of the Florida Statutes explains the various charges an individual can face for lewdness and indecent exposure. Under Florida law, a person can be charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition, conduct, molestation, or battery depending on the details of the case.
Below we will define and differentiate each of the lewd and lascivious charges, along with their potential penalties in Florida:
- Lewd and Lascivious Exhibition: occurs when an individual commits one of three possible acts in the presence of a victim less than 16 years of age. (1) the individual intentionally exposes his or her genitals, (2) they commit any other type of sexual act without coming into either physical or sexual contact with the victim, or (3) they intentionally perform a masturbatory act.
A person charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition who is less than 18 years old commits a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony in Florida has penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. If the person charged is 18 or older, they commit a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony in Florida has penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
- Lewd or Lascivious Conduct: is when an individual intentionally touches a child younger than 16 years old in a manner that does not fall under the same level as molestation or battery or if they solicit a child under 16 to commit a lewd or lascivious act. An example of lewd and lascivious conduct would be an individual groping a minor younger than 16. A person charged with lewd and lascivious conduct commits a third-degree felony if the defendant is younger than 18, and a second-degree felony if the defendant is 18 years or older. A second-degree felony in Florida has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.
- Lewd and Lascivious Molestation: is when an individual intentionally touches or gropes the genitals, buttocks, or chest of a person under the age of 16 years old. An individual can be charged with lewd and lascivious even if they have touched the minor over their clothing, or if they coerced the victim to touch the areas of their own body. A person charged with lewd and lascivious molestation commits a third-degree felony if the defendant is younger than 18, and a second-degree felony in Florida if the defendant is 18 years or older. If the victim is younger than 12, it is then considered a life felony. A life felony has a penalty of up to life imprisonment.
- Lewd and Lascivious Battery: is when there is a sexual act or sexual conduct with a minor between the age of 12 and 16 years old. In addition, a defendant can be charged with lewd and lascivious battery for encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person under 16 to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, sex work, or any other sexual acts.
If they have previously been convicted of either this offense, kidnapping, false imprisonment, sexual battery, lewd or lascivious conduct against an elderly person, or transmitting lewd or lascivious conduct live over a computer’s online service, the second or subsequent charge for sexual contact with a minor is then considered a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony in Florida has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.
Possible Defenses to Lewd and Lascivious Behavior
When an individual is accused of lewd and lascivious behavior, it may seem like a difficult charge to counter. This is especially true when the victim is considered a minor because defenses such as consent or ignorance of age cannot be used as valid defenses in Florida.
However, it does not mean that it is impossible. After getting charged with a lewd and lascivious crime, the accused person’s first step should be to seek out the legal help of a skilled defense attorney.
The following is a list of potential defenses in a lewd and lascivious case:
- False allegations – While not often the case, there are instances in which the defendant has been falsely accused of lewd and lascivious behavior. Reasons for creating false allegations can be due to manipulation, coercion, or influence of the accuser by an upset parent or another person. In addition, jealousy or mental illnesses can be considered a defense for lewd and lascivious charges.
- Lack of Lewd intent – The State must be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with lewd intent in order to reach a conviction. If it can be proven that there was no untoward intent behind the inadvertent behavior, then lack of intent can be used as a valid defense in the case. This is particularly important if the accused accidentally groped the alleged victim.
- Age of the Alleged Victim – While the law does not allow a defendant to proffer the defense of being ignorant of the victim’s age, if the alleged victim is 16 or older then the defendant may be able to defeat one of the elements of the charged crime. Depending upon the specifics of the situation, the defendant may still be charged with other offenses.
- Romeo and Juliet Law – In the state of Florida, the Romeo and Juliet Law was created to protect teenagers in romantic couples from being charged with statutory rape—which is considered when someone between the ages of 16-17 engages in sexual activity with someone 24 years or older. For the Romeo and Juliet Law to be considered a valid defense, the following aspects must be true:
- The ‘victim’ was between the age of 14-17
- The defendant is not more than four years older than the victim (which is specified by the number of days: 1,460)
- The ‘victim’ consented to the sexual activity
- The defendant had no prior convictions for any sex crimes
To find out more about the Romeo and Juliet law, find our page here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
If you or someone you know has been accused of lewd and lascivious behavior, it is imperative to reach out to a sex crime defense attorney in your area. Any sex crimes involving minors in the state of Florida are often harshly prosecuted. A person convicted of a sex crime involving a minor is looking at hefty fines, imprisonment, and potentially registering with the Florida Sex Offender Registry.
Don Pumphrey and his attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing clients from all walks of life in Florida. Our team will stand by your side and strategize a strong defense for your case. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key