Valerie Jan Stanton was convicted of second-degree rape and second-degree sodomy in a unanimous vote by 12 jurors today before Circuit Judge Debra Jones
Jurors heard testimony presented by the state from the victim, his parents and a police officer.
The victim, now 17, told jurors that his relationship with Stanton began after the two met through a mutual acquaintance. (The Star is withholding other information about the teen to avoid publicly identifying him as a victim of rape.)
The teen told jurors that his life goal is to become a professional basketball player and Stanton told him she would help him.
Prosecutors and witnesses testified that Stanton paid for the boy to play with a traveling basketball team based in Birmingham. Stanton took the teen to practices, paid team fees, bought equipment and attended most of his games.
The two began their sexual relationship around March or April 2012, the victim testified, and he said they had sexual encounters in Anniston, Weaver and a hotel in Oxford a total of 15 times.
“I feel bad because it was wrong and I hurt people,” the victim testified. “It hurts me that I did it.”
The victim’s mother discovered the inappropriate relationship in August 2012 and called police.
The police officer told jurors that on the night of Aug. 9, 2012, he went to the victim’s home. While the officer was there, the victim received a text message from Stanton. The officer testified that he had the victim call Stanton, and she and the boy talked about their sexual encounters.
The officer told jurors that the conversation was not recorded.
Several days later, the officer obtained a warrant for Stanton’s arrest.
Stanton was taken to a local police department, where she admitted to having a sexual relationship with the victim and that she knew his age, the officer said. The legal age of consent is 16 under Alabama law, prosecutors said. Stanton was charged the same day, the officer testified.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Eric Snyder of the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office told jurors that Stanton lives in a fantasy, but what she did to the victim was real.
“What you saw in this courtroom is not fiction. It’s this woman’s autobiography. These are real people,” Snyder said.
Stanton’s attorney, Fred Lawton, told jurors the state did not provide enough physical evidence that the crime was committed. Police had no photographs, cell phone records, recordings or videos, Lawton said, and the only evidence was Stanton’s testimony to a police officer.
“Put yourself in Valerie’s shoes. Wouldn’t you insist the state have tangible evidence that you could take back in the jury room so you have beyond a reasonable doubt?” Lawton asked the jurors.
The jury of 8 women and 4 men deliberated for 30 minutes before they returned with the guilty verdict. Jones told Stanton she would sentence her on Sept. 26. Stanton faces a minimum of two years in prison and maximum of 20 years for each charge.
Stanton will return to the Calhoun County Jail, where she’s been held since March, Lawton said. The woman’s bond was revoked for leaving work without an electronic monitoring bracelet, he said.
Prosecutor Jennifer Weems said this was the third case she’s prosecuted in almost seven years in which the defendant accused of a sexual crime was female.
“Consistently they get involved with the minors through sports or some type of youth activity,” Weems said.
Weems said she believes Stanton was a sexual predator toward the victim.
“She used the victim’s interest in sports to gain access to him and to keep him coming back. We’re very pleased with the verdict and feel it was the just and right one,” she said.
Weems thanked the local police department who investigated the case, the Department of Human Resources and the Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center for their help in the case.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.