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Jury begins deliberations in Las Vegas underage sex trial

Updated December 15, 2017 - 10:28 pm

Attorneys presented closing arguments and jurors began deliberations Friday in a case that defense attorneys say “dropped a bomb” on prosecutors on the first day.

A teen who in 2015 accused Joshua Honea, 24, of a yearslong sexual relationship with her recanted her statement on the stand.

“Whether or not she sees herself as a victim is not the question,” Deputy District Attorney Kristina Rhoades told jurors in the case before District Judge Kathleen Delaney. “It’s whether or not he did those things to her.”

In 2015, the girl said she and Honea maintained a four-year sexual relationship that started when she was 11. He faces more than 50 charges, including kidnapping and lewdness with a child.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is not naming the girl because she was a minor when the alleged relationship took place.

According to court documents, the now 18-year-old lives on the streets and is addicted to heroin. When she testified, she told jurors that she made up the story because “the more details, the better.”

“Ask yourselves how she got to that place,” Rhoades said. “Her mom, who was never around, or this man, who started having sex with her when she was 11 years old and controlled her life for four years?”

Before his arrest, Honea was in a police program that encourages a career in law enforcement and teaches young Las Vegans the basics of policing. He also volunteered with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Enterprise Area Command.

Over three weeks, prosecutors presented their case: the girl’s detailed story to detectives, including identifying the mole on his genitals and the sex they had in the back seat of his car.

They also relied on her testimony from a preliminary hearing, pictures that show Honea and the girl kissing, and a photo album that chronicled the relationship. The prosecutors also say the girl went on birth control starting in middle school and that Honea had her social media passwords and became increasingly controlling when she tried to break it off.

Defense attorney Jonathan MacArthur said Honea and the girl had a “brother and sister” relationship that fell apart after the aspiring police officer tried to intervene in her abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Honea’s defense centered on Honea’s role with the Metropolitan Police Department.

“There was no way to anticipate that Josh Honea would not be the only whistleblower in this case,” he told jurors Friday.

Honea was targeted as a whistleblower at Metro after MacArthur said he reported police misconduct. Subsequently, his colleagues then re-opened an investigation into rumors that Honea had an inappropriate relationship with the girl, he said.

He went on to tell jurors that Honea and the girl had a close relationship and had talked about wanting to date when she turned 16. He detailed her relationship with other boys she dated, one who showed nude photos of her to the football team at her high school.

“We know that one boy has always treated her right,” MacArthur said, referring to Honea.

MacArthur said the police told the girl that Honea could get her mother in trouble with child protective services, which is why she came back and reported the alleged relationship.

“If they could shake some salt on Josh, maybe he’d leave Metro,” he said.

But he also said the girl became increasingly angry with Honea for losing his virginity to someone else. He showed photos of her burning a picture of them.

He said the pictures of the two kissing was from a trip Honea took in a pickup truck, one he drove after the girl had turned 16.

“The evidence corroborates it,” he said. “Look at what she’s wearing, look at her face, look at her hair.”

He said Honea was someone the girl’s mother trusted, someone whose family she would leave her daughter with during the holidays. Honea even had a key to their home, MacArthur said.

Prosecutor Stacey Kollins showed the kissing pictures again for jurors.

“They had sex in secret,” she said. ”That’s the selfie. That’s the couple. That’s the romantic relationship. That’s what this was.”

Kollins raised the question that if the girl wanted to put Honea in jail, why hadn’t she given detectives the kissing pictures right away? They weren’t in her photo album.

“Joshua Honea, he’s a good kid,” Kollins said. He did well in school, he was even a positive influence on the girl, she said. “Up until he started having sex with her.”

She presented screenshots that Honea took, using his resources at Metro to check on the investigation. He saved evidence on his iPad, such as social media posts of the girl talking about drug use.

“He’s building his case, because he knows it’s about to hit the fan,” she said. “Yes, he’s a brother; he’s a son. That does not mean he can’t be a sex offender.”

Kollins told jurors the girl harbors guilt for her relationship with Honea, based on years of control and him telling her “no victim, no crime.”

“She was prime selection for a situation like this, whether it be Mr. Honea or someone else,” she said. “Victims are victims for a reason.”

Jury members will resume deliberations Monday.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.