Arkansas man convicted of molesting 7-year-old in Lawrence; remains free on bond

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

In a case filed four years ago, an Arkansas man has been convicted of molesting a 7-year-old in Lawrence.

Willie E. Jackson, 60, of Little Rock, had been scheduled for trial this week in Douglas County District Court, but his trial was canceled after he entered a plea on Friday.

He pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, a felony, according to Jill Spurling, trial assistant with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.

Spurling said Jackson would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21. In the meantime, he remains free on bond, Spurling said.

According to the complaint filed in Douglas County District Court, Jackson initially was charged in July 2014 with one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, an off-grid felony, or the most severe level. His plea was to a less severe level 3 count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, Spurling said.

The crime occurred in 2013, when the victim was 7, according to the complaint.

According to an affidavit prepared by Lawrence police in support of Jackson’s arrest, the girl, who was known to Jackson, told detectives that he touched her under her clothing while she was “sleeping.” Jackson admitted to detectives that he touched the girl as she described, according to the affidavit.

The Journal-World requested and received the affidavit from the court prior to Jackson’s plea.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has declined to release his mugshot to the Journal-World. On Tuesday morning Jackson did not appear on the public sex offender registries in Kansas or Arkansas.

A warrant for Jackson’s arrest was issued when charges were filed in 2014; however, it wasn’t served until a year and a half later.

Asked about the lengthy delay, Spurling said, in an email, “the defendant lived out of state which contributed to the time it took to get him to court.”

In January 2016, shortly after his arrest in the case, Jackson was released on $10,000 bond, court records show.

Earlier, the state had requested a $150,000 bond “to ensure the defendant’s appearance and to protect the public against further criminal activity by the defendant.” In that bond modification request filed in late 2014, prosecutor Mark Simpson said that the state had strong evidence in the case, that Jackson lived out of state and that he faced a severe penalty if convicted of the off-grid felony: life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Simpson also said Jackson had prior felony convictions in Arkansas for domestic battery and forgery, and had once failed to appear in court there in 2003.

In his Douglas County case, according to court records, Jackson was bound over for trial following a preliminary hearing in April 2016 and appeared when ordered for all other hearings.

Jackson’s appointed attorney, Angela Keck, filed a number of motions prior to his plea, including some in which she cast doubt on the credibility of the child’s interview, the child’s parents and Lawrence police officers conducting the investigation. Keck also had argued that Lawrence police “coerced” Jackson to speak with them, which prosecutors denied.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd