A Sedgwick County jury on Thursday began deliberating the case of a Wichita man who is charged with raping two Kansas City, Kan., girls after their mother checked them into an east Wichita hotel so the man could have sex with them.
The defendant, James Lamont Brown, 49, denied the charges when he took the stand Thursday in his own defense.
“I’m fighting for my life,” he said when asked by his lawyer why he wanted to testify. “I ain’t got nothing to hide.”
“Did you ever have any sexual contact with either one of these girls?” defense lawyer Mark Sevart asked.
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“No,” Brown said.
Brown was charged with multiple counts of rape and aggravated human trafficking after police alleged that he had sex with the girls, who are now 14 and 15, at the Econo Lodge at 8302 E. Kellogg in 2010 and 2011.
The girls’ mother, who is not being named to protect the identity of her daughters, has pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated human trafficking and is facing a sentence of life without parole for 25 years. She testified this week that on at least five occasions, she sat on a motel bed and watched as Brown had sex with her daughters. Both girls also testified that Brown had sex with them.
The last witness for the state was Wichita police Detective Aaron Kern, who interviewed Brown on July 12, 2011, in the department’s Exploited and Missing Child Unit. During the interview, Kern said, Brown said he barely knew the mother, whom he described as a distant relative, and said he had never seen the girls.
Brown also said in the interview that he had never been to the Econo Lodge, a statement he was later forced to retract after police found motel records bearing copies of his name and photo ID. Brown later said he reserved the room in June 2011 because the mother was coming to Wichita to attend his father’s funeral.
Under cross-examination by Sevart, Kern conceded that he might have misled Brown during the interview by suggesting he had a surveillance tape and physical evidence that could connect him to the crime.
“Let’s be frank with the jury here,” Sevart said. “Did you or did you not lead him to believe you had a towel with his sperm or DNA on it?”
“I’m not sure what he believed,” Kern said.
“Do you sometimes pretend you have more information than you really have?” Sevart asked.
“Sometimes,” Kern said.
“That’s one of the techniques you use to get information out of people?”
“Sure. We need to find the truth, sir.”
Although Brown was handcuffed during the interview, Kern said he was not under arrest.
“What’s the difference between being under arrest and being in custody if you’re not free to leave?” Sevart asked.
“They’re not under arrest until I tell ’em they’re under arrest, sir,” Kern said “The last part of an arrest is telling somebody they’re under arrest. He had not been told.”
Sevart noted that Kern’s tactics were not able to get Brown to confess.
“Despite your efforts, Mr. Brown maintained his innocence, didn’t he?”
“He did not admit anything,” Kern said.