Monday, February 11, 2013 6:05 PM
Parks convicted, faces decades in prison
By Stephanie Creech | Times Managing Editor
A Wilson County jury convicted Gregory Kent Parks of two counts of participating in prostitution of a minor Monday, bringing to a close his trial that started last week.
Jurors did not convict Parks, 54, of the two additional charges of first-degree sex offense. Jurors deliberated around 90 minutes before coming back with a verdict.
Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner sentenced Parks to 127 months to 165 months in prison for each count of prostituting a minor. The sentences will run back-to-back, meaning Parks could spend between 21 to 27 years in prison. Parks was sentenced as a habitual felon. He could have been sentenced to a total maximum of 462 months in prison, according to Sumner.
Sumner also activated a 10-to-12-month sentence for Parks due to a probation violation. That sentence will run concurrently with the prison time Parks received for the prostituting a minor convictions. Parks had been on probation for one count of uttering a forged instrument resulting from a 2008 conviction in Wilson County.
The prior convictions used to secure the habitual felon sentence enhancement included a May 2012 conviction for common law robbery, a 1998 conviction for obtaining property by false pretense and a 2008 conviction for obtaining property by false pretense.
The defense gave notice of appeal.
JURY FOREMAN TALKS
Parks told the court Monday afternoon during sentencing that he had done those type "petty” crimes to support his cocaine habit. But Parks added that during the eight months prior to his arrest he’d been volunteering in the community helping unload trucks of food to give to the needy. Parks said he hasn’t smoked marijuana in 15 years.
Parks reminded Sumner it was only two months prior to his trial that the state indicted him on the prostituting a minor charges. Parks described the move by prosecutors as "like a catch-all” because he believes prosecutors wanted to get him on something.
Parks said the girls admitted there was no prostitution going on and that there was never any conversation about prostitution.
Parks did not testify during the actual trial. The defense team didn’t call any witnesses. Instead, the defense relied upon poking holes in the state’s case while cross examining the state’s witnesses.
Ebony Boykin, who served as the jury’s foreman, said in an interview with The Wilson Times after the trial ended, the jury saw what happened between Parks and the two girls as "an agreement that did not go as planned.” The agreement, according to Boykin, was either for marijuana or money.
Testimony during the trial revealed that the night of June 15, 2012 two 17-year-old girls went to the Ward Boulevard house Parks shares with his elderly father. The girls willingly entered the home and willingly entered Parks’ bedroom. Once inside the bedroom, the girls testified that Parks pulled a knife on them, had them undress, and performed oral sex on them without their consent. Testimony revealed the girls escaped from Parks’ bedroom after striking him on the back of the head with a small knife they had in their possession. The girls then ran naked from Parks’ bedroom and were helped by Parks’ father, Doulgas Parks, who told the girls to go back into the bedroom and get dressed before he let them out of the house.
The girls left and went to one of their homes. Police arrived a short time later and started investigating the incident. Parks was charged with the two counts of first-degree sex offense on June 16.
Both girls were 17 years old at the time. One is now 18 years old. At 17, the girls were old enough under North Carolina to consent to sexual activity with Parks.
Boykin said there was "not a lot of evidence” to hold Parks to on the first-degree sex offense charges. But on the prostituting a minor charges, Boykin said had Parks looked at one of the girls, he should have been able to tell she was a child.
"In my eyes, it wasn’t illegal,” Parks said of being with the girls. "They panicked then get on the stand and don’t tell the truth.”
The girls testified they lied because they didn’t want to tell police or their parents they went to Parks’ house for marijuana.
Boykin said she told her fellow jurors that she understands why the two girls in this particular case didn’t initially tell their parents or police the truth about how they ended up at Parks’ house. Boykin said the girls couldn’t tell their parents, "I went and sold my body for this.”
On Monday, jurors heard testimony from a third girl Parks is accused of raping in May 2012. The girl, who was 15 years old at the time, told jurors about how Parks allegedly picked her up in the old, blue Cadillac he drives while she was walking near Daniels Learning Center. It was at night. The girl had walked away from a party she was attending. She told jurors that Parks had a knife between his legs as he sat in the car.
The girl got into the car and went home with Parks. At his home, Parks allegedly raped the girl several times before allowing her to leave the next day.
Parks is charged with statutory rape in that case, which is yet to be tried. Parks is represented by Will Farris of Farris and Farris.
Prosecutor Joel Stadiem wanted jurors to hear the third girl’s testimony in order to show a pattern of behavior for Parks when it comes to young girls and alleged forced sexual acts. Farris was successful on Friday in convincing Sumner not to let jurors hear about a second incident involving the third girl last May.
LOOKING FOR WEAK GIRLS?
Boykin said they talked about the third girl’s testimony as a jury and "even though it did show a pattern for the things he did,” jurors chose not to consider it while trying to reach a verdict on the other charges against Parks.
"It’s been tough,” Boykin said of listening to these girls’ stories.
During closing arguments Monday morning, Stadiem described Parks as a man who picks on troubled, young African-American girls in his neighborhood. Stadiem said Parks picks the girls because he is a "sexual predator.”
"He’s looking for the weak girl, the young girls around his house,” Stadiem said.
Stadiem painted Parks’ bedroom to jurors as a "sexual assault chamber.” Stadiem reminded jurors about the cables tied to Parks’ bed and said, "this isn’t those little fuzzy handcuffs” and that being tied to the cables was "not for their pleasure.” No testimony was offered by any witness about Parks allegedly tying them up on the bed.
Stadiem said the two girls in June were lucky to have escaped from Parks. Stadiem said the girls thought, "we’ve got to survive. We’ve got to get out of this room.”
To convict Parks of prostituting a minor jurors had to find that a minor was paid or given something of value in exchange for sex and that Parks was not a minor. To convict Parks of first-degree sex offense, jurors had to find that a sex act had occurred, that force or a threat of force was used, there was a lack of consent and a dangerous weapon was used. In this case, the girls accused Parks of having a knife.
While addressing Sumner, Parks denied he had created a "sexual assault chamber.”
‘NO TORTURE CHAMBER’
"It won’t no torture chamber,” Parks said.
If it had been a torture chamber, Parks said he wouldn’t have been hit in the head by the girls because he would have had control of them.
Parks said an aunt asks him why hasn’t he found a good girl. He said he told her, good girls are looking for a good man.
"Right now, I’m not a good man,” he said.
Parks raised questions about the work done by Wilson officers investigating the case. Detective Mike Harrell didn’t interview Douglas Parks, who was the only other person in the house at the time the girls were there, until December, roughly six months later.
Parks said the detective told him during their interview in June that he was going to do a thorough investigation.
"He didn’t investigate nothing I said,” Parks said. "He didn’t go see my Daddy for six months and he was right in the house.”
In his closing remarks, Farris also pointed to the work officers allegedly didn’t do. Farris said the defense has had to tell the state to do things during the course of this investigation. He reminded jurors of Officer B.G. Nester, who had conflicting times noted for when the girls’ sexual assault kits were turned over to police and logged into evidence. Farris raised questions about the chain of custody of evidence. Nester was supposed to be working under the supervision of her training officer.
"Officer Nester was hung out to dry by her field training officer,” Farris said. "He didn’t even testify.”
But Farris turned around and complimented Nester for recognizing the problems with potential evidence she handled.
"She’s truthful,” Farris said. "She’ll be a better officer because of it.”
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