Keaton convicted for rape of minor

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Joseph Keaton

Joseph Keaton, 56, of Kenbridge, was sentenced to seven years in prison recently for Rape of a Child Under Age 13 Years after having entered an Alford Plea of Guilty in Lunenburg Circuit Court back in December 2018. The charge stemmed from a complaint of an incident alleged to have occurred in the February 2015 made by the defendant’s estranged mother of his child.

According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Clement, Keaton continually denied the allegation even at the time of sentencing on Feb. 4, at which time Judge S. Anderson Nelson imposed a life sentence with all suspended except seven years of which Keaton will serve 85 percent if he is of good behavior in prison. There was no physical evidence and no corroborative evidence of the crime, according to Clement, and the case would have relied solely upon the child’s testimony. She is now 16 years of age, a release from the Lunenburg County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office cited.

The mother reported the incident to Lunenburg Sheriff’s Office in April 2018. Investigator Gail Berkley interviewed the victim. The incident allegedly occurred in 2015, when the victim was 12 years old. Law enforcement had to deal with a myriad of difficulties in investigating the crime including not having a physical crime scene to inspect, the release cited. Keaton was interviewed, but vehemently denied the allegations, stating that the mother was making up the story and forcing the child to repeat it in order to have revenge on him, the release cited.

Keaton married another woman and had other children by her, who were interviewed and denied ever being mistreated by Keaton, Clement said. Following Keaton’s Alford Plea of Guilty in which a defendant denies guilt, but agrees that the evidence may be sufficient for conviction and that he does not wish to take a chance on a trial that could result in life in prison, the Court ordered a pre-sentence report and psycho-sexual evaluation be completed prior to sentencing. According to Clement, there was nothing in the reports to cause the judge to reject the plea agreement in the case, which stipulated to an active sentence of seven years with a life sentence suspended.

According to Clement, the mother and victim who live in North Carolina agreed to the disposition, since it would allow the victim to avoid the trauma of testifying in court and avoided the risk of a not guilty verdict. Keaton has prior convictions in Mecklenburg County for Assault and Batter Family Member (3rd Offense) in 2006 and Possession of a Firearm by Convicted Felon in 2008.

The suspended portions of his sentence are subject to no contact with the victim and her mother, good behavior, no alcohol and illegal drugs, supervised probation for an indefinite period, warrantless searches, forbidden from being alone with children under the age of 18 years without responsible adult supervision, forbidden from loitering on or within 100 feet of schools and day care centers, and compliance with sex offender registration and rules.