New trial date set in Douglas County sexual extortion case to retry Alabama man on hung-jury charge
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World
A new trial date was set on Wednesday to retry an Alabama man who was convicted on one count of sexual extortion at trial but a Douglas County jury hung on a second count.
Devaris Lamar Howard, 21, of Gadsden, Alabama, was charged in Douglas County District Court with two felony counts of sexual extortion. The charges relate to incidents between August and October of 2022 in which Howard is alleged to have blackmailed a University of Kansas freshman by threatening to post nude photos of a then-teen online in order to get more nude photos of her, as the Journal-World reported. The photos of the woman as a teenager were not recovered by investigators, but the woman engaged Howard in a video call in an effort to placate Howard, but Howard recorded that call and allegedly attempted to extort the woman further.
After a two-day trial, a jury of eight women and four men returned the verdict of guilty on one count but hung on the second count after a day of deliberations.
On Wednesday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum said that she intended to retry Howard on the second count. The charge is a high-level felony and comes with a presumptive prison sentence with a minimum of 38 months, or over three years in custody, regardless of Howard’s criminal history, according to Kansas sentencing guidelines.
Judge Amy Hanley set a new trial for Feb. 20, 2024, with sentencing on the first conviction to be scheduled after the trial. Howard is also facing a misdemeanor count of violating a protection order for allegedly trying to contact the victim before his first trial, according to charging documents. That case will also be taken up after the new trial, Hanley said.
Howard’s attorney, Cooper Overstreet, then asked the court to reinstate Howard’s bond prior to the new trial so Howard could better prepare for trial out of custody. Overstreet had asked the court in November to revoke Howard’s bond after charges were filed against Howard in Alabama. At the time, Overstreet wanted to prevent Howard from being transported and to make sure he was getting time served on any sentence he receives in connection with his extortion case.
According to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, Howard has two active warrants in Etowah County, Alabama, in connection with one felony count of sex abuse and one felony count of sodomy.
Hanley denied the request and said that she didn’t want to risk Howard being extradited to Alabama and that, if the state had asked, she would have revoked his bond after his conviction at trial anyway. Howard remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail.