Payne rape trial begins

Published 8:57 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell
A former Escambia County teacher is facing up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of second-degree rape.
Victor Labarron Payne, a former physical education and science instructor at Escambia County Middle School, is on trial this week in connection with allegations by a then-seventh-grade student at the school.
The alleged incident took place in December of 2002 or January of 2003 on the campus of the school.
In opening arguments Tuesday at the Escambia County Courthouse in Brewton, prosecuting attorney Reo Kirkland Jr. told a jury Payne admitted having sex with the girl at the school's concession area.
"In December of 2002, he fondled, kissed and had sexual intercourse with her," he said.
Defense attorney Armardo Pitters said his client would take the stand during the trial and speak for himself in regard to the charges against him.
"I'm not going to hide anything from you, ladies and gentlemen," Pitters told the jury. "Mr. Payne will take the stand. He has no criminal history and never has had any charges against him."
Pitters said the school found nothing that would cause Payne not to be employed as a teacher at the school.
"The school investigated," Pitters said. "They found nothing and he continued to work until Oct. 15, 2004."
Escambia County High School Principal Kyle Ferguson testified Tuesday that the victim related a story of sexual contact with a teacher at Escambia County Middle School to ROTC instructor Danny Smart. Smart reported the information to Ferguson, who then interviewed the victim.
"She came to me and said that a teacher at Escambia County Middle School had engaged in a sexual relationship with her," Ferguson said. "She said it was in the concession area in the gym. She said it happened on more than one occasion. She identified the teacher as being Victor Payne."
Ferguson said it was his duty to report the allegations to the Department of Human Resources who in turn informed the Escambia County Sheriff's Department.
Church McMullen, who was a captain with the Escambia County Sheriff's Department at the time of the arrest, said he acted on a call from DHR.
The case is expected to continue today as more witnesses for the prosecution are called. The defense will be calling witnesses during the trial today as well.
If convicted on the charge of rape second degree, which is a Class B felony, Payne would face not more than 20 years or less than two years in prison.

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