An Alexandria man was found guilty Thursday of raping a Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office informant who captured the incident on a device intended to record the purchase of meth.
Antonio Demetrius Jones, 48, will be sentenced Dec. 12 after his conviction on two counts of third-degree rape.
Testimony began and ended Thursday after two days of jury selection. Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Chris Hazel denied a mistrial request from Jones' defense team before the lunch break after jurors watched video of the Jan. 13, 2021, incident that was so graphic some kept looking away.
The defense called no witnesses, and it took jurors an hour to reach their decision.
Before testimony began, prosecutors asked Hazel to grant a motion prohibiting the defense from mentioning anything about the informant's sexual history, either with Jones or anyone else, during the trial.
Rapides Parish Assistant District Attorney Brian Cespiva said defense attorney James Word III had brought up the issue the previous day during jury selection, and he said it violates Louisiana’s rape shield statute. He said he tried to plant a seed for potential jurors, some of whom were selected to serve, of a past relationship between the two.
“When he started talking about it in voir dire [jury selection], I was shocked,” he said. “That is prohibited.”
Defense attorney Phillip Robinson argued that prosecutors' primary piece of evidence, the video of the incident, showed there had been a past relationship and that the state wanted to stop them from discussing what would be revealed in the video. He said it wasn’t the defense’s intent to dig into the informant's sexual history.
Hazel granted the state’s motion.
Cespiva, in his opening statement, told jurors the victim is a struggling addict, but she’s also a human being. He said they’d hear from her about her struggles and warned them of what they would see.
'A vulnerable, scared victim who said no'
“What you’re gonna see, you’re not gonna be able to get out of your head,” Cespiva said, saying they’d witness “a vulnerable, scared victim who said no.” And he told them they’d learn how police deal with drugs in Rapides Parish and how they use confidential informants, the “most common practice in the country.”
Robinson had Jones stand for the jury as he began his opening statement. He called Jones a son, a brother and a father, admitting he wasn’t “a perfect man by no means, but he’s not the monster the state is painting him to be.”
As Robinson began talking about the day of the incident, he mentioned that the victim and Jones had talked about having sex that day. Cespiva objected, saying it violated Hazel’s order on the motion from earlier in the morning. The parties had a brief meeting, then Cespiva noted his objection for the record, calling it a flagrant violation, “and we’re appalled.”
Antonio Jones case:Woman's rape cries go unheard in Rapides sheriff's unmonitored drug sting
The first witness was Rapides Parish sheriff’s detective Cassie Saucier, a narcotics agent with the Rapides Area Drug Enforcement Agency, or RADE. The woman Jones is accused of raping was her informant after being introduced by another officer who thought she had relevant information for Saucier.
Cespiva asked her how informants are used and what procedures they go through. Saucier said the number of informants officers have can fluctuate, and the Sheriff's Office uses them because informants often have good information about dealers and what’s happening on the streets.
Saucier also said it’s easier because informants often know the dealers, who she testified often are paranoid. It’s safer to use them than try to place a new person, she said.
“Sometimes that’s the only way, sir,” she told Cespiva.
She said informants are not forced to work with law enforcement and that they sign agreements before participating. She testified that some informants are those looking for help with criminal charges against them, while others could be paid and others could be family members of drug overdose victims who want help.
Saucier said the woman Jones is accused of raping was considered a reliable confidential informant, a term used to designate those who have provided good information in the past.
On the day of the incident, the informant had contacted Saucier and said she could buy some meth from Jones, Saucier testified. The informant signed an agreement and was fit with a device to record the buy. The video and audio were not received by deputies in real time, she later testified.
She and two other deputies were nearby as the informant went inside Jones’ Texas Avenue home, close to Rapides Avenue. At times, they parked in the Swamp Daddy’s restaurant parking lot but other times drove around so they wouldn’t draw suspicion, she said.
“We wanna keep eyes on everything. We don’t want to just abandon people,” she said.
The informant was inside for 30-40 minutes, Saucier said, coming outside once to get scales from her car, she said. She had been given $160 to buy meth, and she got 5.1 grams.
The informant called her after leaving, telling her Jones forced her to perform oral sex. Saucier testified she asked the victim if she needed medical help, and she said no. She then told her to meet them back at the RADE offices, as was normal protocol.
Once at the office, Saucier said the informant “was hysterical. She was crying.”
Cespiva asked her how she knew the woman had been raped.
“I watched the video,” Saucier said.
'Please stop. I said please.'
Word began to object, but Cespiva said they would play the video to answer any questions. It shows her driving to Jones’ home, listening to the radio and taking some cellphone calls. Then, when she gets to Jones, he searches her. He questions why she’s buying, and she told him her father was dying and she wanted to get high.
The two bicker for a bit with the woman telling Jones she always looks out for him. Then Jones wants sex, but she says she doesn’t want to do that. She tells him to stop and then can be heard whimpering and crying. Jones stops as some people come to the door, and the woman later goes outside to get the scales after Jones tells her to do it.
When she returns, Jones tells her to perform oral sex again. The informant protests repeatedly and begins crying, but he forces her.
“Please stop. I said please,” she says at one point in the video.
One juror covered her eyes, looked at the TV again and repeated the pattern several times. One was frowning, while two others looked away.
Jurors took a break after the video, at which time Robinson called for a mistrial because he said two jurors didn’t watch it. Hazel denied the request.
The last witness of the morning was Rapides Sheriff’s Detective Will George, lead detective on the rape case. Cespiva asked him what steps he took in the investigation.
He said he was on call that day, and a supervisor called him about it. He said he took a statement from the victim but knew he had probable cause for an arrest after watching the video.
Robinson asked George if he took a statement from the victim. He said a brief one but realized he didn’t need to interview her again after seeing the video. Robinson asked if George noticed any inconsistencies between the victim's statement and the video and ended up having him read her statement.
George said the victim forgot to mention to him that she went to her car to get the scales, but George noted she had been through a traumatic event.
Woman testifies: 'Trying to get my life together'
The woman was the last witness for the state. She testified that she's battled addiction for about 20 years and now is in rehab "trying to get my life together."
Cespiva asked her if she agreed to have oral sex with Jones. "No, I did not," she answered.
She identified Jones as the man Cespiva said repeatedly raped her. He asked her what the incident did to her life, and she said it caused her to relapse and begin using meth again.
Robinson, in his cross examination, asked her why she went back into the house after getting scales from her car. She told him she'd already paid for the drugs but hadn't received the meth yet.
"I was trying to get the job done," she testified.
Robinson also asked her if she ever felt pressured to be an informant by the Sheriff's Office, if she blamed the agency for what happened and whether she had hired an attorney to sue over it.
She answered no to all three questions.
Cespiva was blunt in his closing argument.
"What the hell are we doing here?" he asked. "He's guilty as hell. You saw him on the tape. Nobody, not even an animal, deserves to be treated like that. That was sick."
He credited the Sheriff's Office, RADE and people like the informant for their work in getting drugs off the streets.
Robinson countered that the case is not as simple as the state presented. He said the world of drug sellers and users is a different culture and that jurors should consider that. He also told jurors to remember there's a benefit to the Sheriff's Office in using informants like the woman.
He said if the woman felt pressure to complete the deal, that's on the Sheriff's Office and not on Jones.
Rapides Assistant District Attorney Johnny Giordano addressed jurors and said the defense was trying to blame everyone but Jones.
"The angel that they make him out to be," he said while gesturing to him.
He agreed that the drug culture is different but said the woman had nothing to gain by lying. If she hadn't been wired, it would have been a case of he said, she said, Giordano said.
"He controlled the game," he said. "She's very brave."
This article originally appeared on Alexandria Town Talk: Man guilty in 2021 rape of Rapides Sheriff's Office drug informant