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Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms John Jackson’s Convictions

A panel of Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges has upheld John Jackson’s rape and child pornography convictions, rejecting his argument that evidence presented at his trial should have been suppressed because the warrant to obtain it was not properly executed, among other claims.

John A. Jackson (VIPD photo)
John A. Jackson (VIPD photo)

Jackson, 35, was found guilty at his jury trial in April 2022 and sentenced in February 2023 to 25 years in prison for producing child pornography, transporting minors for the purpose of committing sex crimes, and first- and second-degree rape. He also must register as a sex offender when he completes his prison term.

He appealed his convictions to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in November, arguing that the warrant was defective; authorities violated his Fourth Amendment rights during its execution; that he did not transport minors for the sole purpose of having sex; and that one sex video does not constitute child pornography.

According to court documents, Jackson trolled St. Thomas high schools and social media for his victims, including one who was 14 and in the ninth grade when they met. His arrest on Feb. 6, 2019, came after one of the victims told her father about the relationship, and he filed a police report. The child pornography conviction stems from a video found on the girl’s cellphone that Jackson made of them having sex when she was 15 and he was 30.

The three victims who testified in court detailed how Jackson would ply them with marijuana cigarettes and brownies before engaging them in sex — at his home, in a delivery truck he drove, in his car, and at a house near Brookman Road — but never took the drug himself.

In a ruling on Jan. 4, 2021, V.I. District Court Judge Robert Molloy rejected Jackson’s motion to suppress evidence gathered under the warrant, except for the brownies that were seized during the search of his Mandahl home on Feb. 23, 2019, and later tested positive for marijuana.

Other items seized from Jackson’s home included electronics, alleged drug paraphernalia, a Gucci bracelet, and an orange and pink pillow a victim had described being in his bedroom and that was visible in the video he made of them having sex, according to court documents.

In affirming Jackson’s conviction in a 14-page opinion issued on Friday, the three-judge panel rejected his claims.

“The warrant presented to the Magistrate Judge described with particularity the place to be searched in Attachment A and the items to be seized in Attachment B. Those attachments, however, were not provided to Jackson. While the failure to do so was an error, suppression is not warranted,” the judges wrote in their opinion.

While the omission was troubling, “the agents would have seized the same items even if Jackson was presented with the Attachments,” they said.

Additionally, the plain view exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement permitted agents to seize the pillow, bracelet, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, the judges ruled.

The objects they saw “bore an immediately apparent incriminating character. Both the tiger-print pillow and gold bracelet looked identical to items depicted in the sex video, which Special Agents had viewed before conducting the search. Additionally, the marijuana and accompanying drug paraphernalia was facially incriminating. Third, the officers could lawfully access the items in all places in the home, given what the warrant itself listed items that could be found anywhere in the house. Thus, the plain view exception permitted the seizures,” the opinion states.

While his attorney argued during oral arguments before the panel in May that a single sex video did not constitute child pornography, but was rather a spur-of-the-moment, one-off decision, the “angle of the camera, which focused on their genitals, and the fact that Jackson watched it with Jane Doe 1 afterwards show that he had a particular purpose in recording their sexual activities. Based upon the foregoing, a jury had reason to infer that Jackson had sex partly to record it,” the judges ruled.

“Sufficient evidence also permitted the jury to convict Jackson on Counts Two, Three, and Four for transporting Jane Does 1, 2, and 3 with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity with each of them in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a),” they said.

“Here, Jane Doe 3 testified that (1) on multiple occasions, Jackson would pick her up from school, drive her to his apartment, and have sex with her; and (2) one time, he drove her and Jane Doe 2 to his apartment, where he had sex with them. Jane Doe 2 testified that Jackson routinely drove her to a parking lot where they had sex. Lastly, Jane Doe 1 testified that Jackson often drove her to his apartment where they had sex, including on her fifteenth birthday, his thirtieth birthday, and the day he recorded the video. An agent also testified that Jackson admitted to having transported Jane Doe 1 to his apartment and having sex with her there,” the opinion states.

“Based on the foregoing, the jury had sufficient evidence to find that Jackson transported Jane Does 1, 2, and 3 so that he could have sex with them,” they said.

Jackson — a father of two who once had a promising boxing career and represented the USVI in the sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics — is currently incarcerated at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Friday’s opinion, written by Judge Patty Shwartz, does not constitute binding precedent because it is not an opinion of the full court. Jackson, who was represented in his appeal by Matthew M. Robinson of Robinson & Brandt, PSC in Lexington, Kentucky, has 14 days to file a petition for a rehearing.

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