Alabama man sentenced to over 3 years for sexually extorting KU student

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Devaris Howard is pictured at his sentencing hearing on April 18, 2024, in Douglas County District Court. Howard was convicted of one felony count of sexual extortion.

An Alabama man was sentenced to over three years in prison on Thursday for threatening to post nude images of a woman online in exchange for more nude images.

The man, Devaris Lamar Howard, 21, of Gadsden, Alabama, was convicted of one count of sexual extortion for blackmailing a woman into sending him nude images on Nov. 8, 2023, in connection with a series of incidents between Aug. 30, 2022, and Oct. 11, 2022.

At trial the victim testified that Howard had sent her a nude image of herself from when she was in middle school and used it to extort more photos from her. The original image was never recovered by law enforcement but videos the woman later sent Howard were, as the Journal-World reported. The woman was 19 and attending the University of Kansas while Howard was extorting her.

The jury had hung on a second count of sexual extortion that the state intended to retry, but Judge Amy Hanley ruled that doing so would be double jeopardy, as the Journal-World reported.

On Thursday, Hanley denied Howard’s request for probation and sentenced him to 41 months, or 3.4 years, in prison with 36 months of post-release supervision, in accordance with state law. She noted that the Kansas Legislature made the charge a presumptive prison offense regardless of a person’s criminal history. She said she did not find the arguments that Howard’s attorney, Cooper Overstreet, presented for probation to be substantial or compelling enough to depart from the prison sentence.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Attorney Cooper Overstreet, right, is pictured at a sentencing hearing with his client, Devaris Howard, left, on April 18, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Prior to the sentence being read, Overstreet had argued that Howard’s young age at the time of the crime, lack of criminal convictions, and mental conditions identified during his psychosexual evaluation warranted a probation sentence. He said Howard needs therapy to rehabilitate him, not prison. Overstreet had also argued that Howard deserved a new trial since Howard was not allowed to participate in conferences between the judge and attorneys during trial. Hanley also denied the motion for a new trial and said that the conference dealt with legal issues that Howard could not have substantively contributed to and that the law does not require him to be present.

The victim spoke briefly before Howard was sentenced and said that what Howard did to her made her feel “profoundly alone” as she worked to keep the extortion a secret from her friends and family.

“For months I endured the dehumanizing efforts that humiliated me,” the woman said.

She said her choice to come forward was in part to help prevent the same thing happening to other women.

Howard apologized to the court for the case having taken so long, and he said he had never been in trouble before this incident. He said that if he were given the chance on probation he would reclaim his life by going back to school or finding a job. He said his time in the county jail had shown him what he does not want from life.

“I have watched people come in and out of jail; that is not what I want for my life,” Howard said.

The state, represented by Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden, said that Howard has shown no remorse or taken any accountability since this process began and that Howard even tried to contact the victim on social media after he was charged. He asked Hanley to sentence Howard to the maximum prison time allowable, 43 months.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden is pictured at a hearing on April 18, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

Howard has a pending misdemeanor charge of violating a protective order for allegedly trying to contact the victim in December of 2022. He is scheduled to appear on that charge on April 23.

Howard still faces extradition to Alabama. According to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, Howard has two active warrants there in connection with one felony count of sex abuse and one felony count of sodomy and has a $100,000 bond in Alabama in connection with those warrants.