PAOLA — John Daniel Hastings awaits sentencing on felony drug and firearm charges while an inmate of the Miami County Detention Center.
Hastings, however, was not convicted of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy charges in connection with a drug transaction on the afternoon of May 12, 2018, in Bucyrus.
A jury deliberated for about 6 hours in Miami County District Court on Thursday, Jan. 24, before reaching a verdict shortly after 10 p.m. on eight of nine felony counts against Hastings stemming from the May 12 incident in which a woman alleged Hastings raped her in his bedroom after selling marijuana to her when she was 18.
The jury found Hastings, who was 20 at the time of the incident, guilty of distributing marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, as well as two drug paraphernalia charges related to two bags containing marijuana that were discovered in a safe after detectives with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant to search the room.
The jury also convicted Hastings of being a felon in possession of a firearm because a rifle that belonged to a friend was discovered by detectives in Hastings’ bedroom closet. Hastings had a prior felony on his juvenile record that had occurred within the past five years.
The woman testified that after the marijuana transaction occurred, she was sexually assaulted by Hastings.
She said she tried to push Hastings off of her but he was too heavy and strong for her to move. She testified she bit Hastings on the chest and scratched his back during the struggle.
County Attorney Elizabeth Sweeney-Reeder provided photographic evidence that showed the bite and scratch marks on Hastings’ body were located where the woman said they would be. She also provided photographs of the woman that showed bruises on her chest where the woman testified Hastings had held her down with his arm.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office was contacted on May 14 about the assault and obtained a warrant that day to search Hastings’ room and collect evidence. The sheriff’s office also noted a rifle in the defendant’s closet. They also found a safe that contained two bags of marijuana, which were later examined by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
In three subsequent video and audio interviews with sheriff’s detectives that were played for the jury during the three-day trial, Hastings maintained that the woman had initiated the sexual encounter that he described in one interview as “rough sex.” He told detectives he had not held the woman down and at one point she was actually on top of him and could have left at any point.
Forrest Lowry, Hastings’ Ottawa-based defense attorney, argued the woman had testified during Hastings’ preliminary hearing in July that she had been on top of Hastings for a short time. She also had testified at the preliminary hearing that she had observed handguns in the safe, though no handguns were found in the safe, Lowry said.
Lowry also pointed out a sheriff’s office deputy was patrolling the street in Bucyrus that afternoon in a Ford Explorer that was clearly marked as a sheriff’s vehicle. The deputy testified he observed the woman leaving the home as his vehicle drew closer that day but noted nothing unusual. The woman testified she did not see the sheriff’s vehicle.
Though the jury found Hastings guilty of the drug-related and firearm felony charges, the jury found Hastings not guilty on one count of rape and two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision on a second count of rape, and Judge Amy Harth declared a mistrial on that specific count. It did not affect the jury’s verdicts on the other eight felony counts.
Because a mistrial was declared on the one rape count the state could proceed to trial on that count again, Sweeney-Reeder said. The prosecutor said she had not yet made a decision about retrying that rape count.
“While I am disappointed that the defendant was not convicted of all the crimes charged, I respect the process and the jury’s hard work in reaching their decision,” Sweeney-Reeder said.
Family members and friends of the woman were visibly upset after the verdicts were read — one shouted as he left the courtroom and another made an angry remark as she exited. Court security elayed the defendant’s family and friends until after the woman’s supporters had left the area outside the courtroom to prevent the two sides from mingling.
A sentencing hearing has not yet been set. The distribution count (less than 25 grams) is a Level Four drug felony punishable by 14 to 51 months in prison; possession with intent to distribute (more than 25 grams but less than 450 grams) is a Level Three drug felony punishable by 46 months to 83 months in prison; the drug paraphernalia charges are Level 5 drug felonies each punishable by 10 months to 42 months in prison, and the felon in possession of a firearm count is a Level Eight felony punishable by seven to 23 months in prison.