Right or Wrong, we can all learn from this unfortunate situation. Talk to your teenagers and educate them on the laws in your state. There is alot more to this story than we know - the appeal process is underway.
Travis Pennington convicted of Statutory Rape
Travis Pennington, the 19-year-old son of Dirt Racing Hall of Fame member Jack Pennington, of Douglasvillle, GA, was convicted of Statutory Rape in Douglas County Superior Court Mar. 11, and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge David T. Emerson.
According to a the District Attorney, about three years ago a 12-year-old girl reported the crime, and gave a video-taped statement. The DA said the victim?s family and the defendant?s family were friends and it was not uncommon for the victim to be at the defendant?s home.
She became a frequent visitor after Travis, age 16 at the time, and his racing success was profiled in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
An investigator for the Sheriff?s Office interviewed, videotaped, and arrested Pennington, after picking him up at his high school and questioning him with no parents present. The investigator waited until after Travis had turned 17, so parental notification wasn?t required. Travis admitted there was oral sex.
The girl?s video says she ?came on? to him but there was no actual intercourse.
In Georgia, it is considered statutory rape to have sexual intercourse with any person under 16 years of age. It does not matter if you are unaware of the victim’s age, or if the sex is consensual.
The girl?s mother filed a civil suit against the Pennington?s, and sought cash, before the Sheriff?s Office was involved. Jack Pennington?s insurance settled the suit, paying $15,000.
The Pennington family, including the divorced mother Sharon, of Cherokee County, have announced an appeal, and sent an open letter:
> The Pennington Family would like to thank you for all the
> phone calls, e-mails, messages, prayers, and support. We
> can’t release any details as to how this situation escalated
> to this point, but as of now, the case is in appeal, but we
> can say that Travis did not rape, molest or harm anyone.
> He was 16 when these charges were finally brought against
> him. He was not allowed to go back to school during the
> investigation. I would like to say to any parents out there
> that have boys, you need to make them aware of the penalties
> and laws of teen sex, especially in their juvenile years, and
> to make sure of the intentions of new found acquaintances.
> This has been really hard on both families and we would ask
> that you would search your heart before you post negative
> things when you don’t have the facts. We need Character
> Witness Letters about Travis to assist in his appeal.
> If you would like to send one please send it to
> firstname.lastname@example.org. Georgia
> lawmakers are also being sought out & consulted.
> Also, if you would like to send him a letter or words of
> encouragement please send to same e-mail address and I will
> send it to him. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and
> prayers so far. Our Faith will help us seek & find the truth
> for Travis.
> The Pennington Family
From the District Attorney’s Office -
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Douglas County District Attorney David announced today that Travis Pennington, 19, of Douglasville, was convicted of Statutory Rape following a bench trial conducted by Superior Court Judge David T. Emerson. Pennington was charged with having sexual intercourse with a 12 year old female victim at his father?s home in Douglasville. Following the bench trial on March 11, 2010, Superior Court Judge David T. Emerson sentenced Pennington to 20 years, with 10 years to be served in prison.
According to evidence presented during the trial by Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Ballew, the 12 year old victim reported the crime to Investigator Jay Hayes of the Douglas County Sheriff?s Office. Her videotaped statement with Investigator Hayes was admitted into evidence during the trial. According to Ballew, the victim?s family and the defendant?s family were friends and it was not uncommon for the victim to be at the defendant?s home.
Investigator Hayes then interviewed Pennington about the charge. During his interview, Pennington admitted to having sexual intercourse with the 12 year old victim. His videotaped interview was also admitted into evidence during the trial. Investigator Hayes later discovered a 2nd victim who also revealed that Pennington had engaged in sexual intercourse with her.
District Attorney David McDade in praising the work of the Sheriff?s Department and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jeff Ballew described this case as being very difficult on everyone involved, specifically, the families of the victims. ?These victims look to those of us in the justice system whose job it is to protect them to seek justice for them. I trust that this verdict makes it clear we care about them and that this community cares about them.?