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Conviction upheld for Yuma police officer in San Diego rape case

Posted at 8:26 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 11:26:24-05

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An appeals court Wednesday upheld the conviction of a former Yuma police officer convicted of raping a young woman during a family get-together in San Diego.

Jared Elkins was sentenced to 20 years in state prison for the 2017 assault on the victim, who was related to him by marriage.

Elkins entered her bedroom, forced himself upon her and threatened to kill her if she screamed, according to Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox. Afterward, the victim waited until she thought Elkins was asleep in another room, then woke up her mother and the two jumped out a window and ran off, with the mother calling 911, the prosecutor said.

Elkins testified that he was awakened the next morning by a call from the San Diego Police Department, telling him to come outside, where he was arrested. He later resigned from the Yuma Police Department.

Elkins testified that the sex was consensual and that the victim came on to him by cuddling on the sofa as they watched a movie.

Defense attorney Ellis "Trip" Johnston told the jury that the woman, knowing that she had just slept with the husband of a relative, feared the consequences.

A jury convicted Elkins of one count each of forcible rape and sexual penetration by force and two counts of oral copulation by force. He was acquitted of rape, oral copulation and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.

On appeal, Elkins contended that testimony from another woman who alleged he tried to sexually assault her in Arizona in early 2018 should not have been admissible.

Elkins was not charged in that alleged encounter, though state law allows for testimony from uncharged victims in cases involving sexual offenses. Elkins argued that woman's testimony did not establish any evidence of a sexual offense, rendering it inadmissible, though a three-justice panel of California's Fourth District Court of Appeal disagreed with Elkins' interpretation of the testimony and said his argument "is betrayed by the evidence."

His appeal also noted that law enforcement officials in Arizona did not charge him, but the panel wrote, "While being charged and ultimately convicted would bolster the certainty that Elkins committed these offenses, the fact that he was not charged does not limit the admissibility of (the victim's) testimony."

Elkins' appeal also challenged the testimony of police officers regarding the victim's statements when she was interviewed, in which she told an officer, "I'm not a victim."

One officer testified that the victim appeared visibly upset and her actions did not give "the impression that she was not a victim," while another officer testified he believed she was rejecting the victim label, rather than denying the assault occurred.

The victim testified that she was "hysterical" and "humiliated that I was just raped. And I think anyone who has ever been violated like that is embarrassed."

Elkins argued the officers' opinions should not have been admitted as opinion testimony regarding whether another witness is telling the truth is generally prohibited. The panel wrote that the officers were offering their opinions behind the meaning of the victim's statement, not whether she was telling the truth about being raped, and thus was proper opinion testimony.

Elkins also challenged the trial judge's discharge of one of the original jurors, as well as the judge's action in barring one of Elkins' friends from attending the trial.

The panel wrote that during the trial, a juror talked with a friend of Elkins during a break, discussing topics unrelated to the case. The juror was dismissed and Elkins' friend -- an unidentified Yuma firefighter -- allegedly called the judge "an idiot" afterwards.

The panel found no error with dismissing a juror who disregarded instructions on speaking with people associated with the defendant, and no error in dismissing Elkins' friend, who "threatened to interfere with jurors and the completion of trial."