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Payne guilty of sex crimes

By By Lisa Tindell
After three days of testimony, a jury took just more than an hour to find a former Escambia County teacher guilty Thursday of three sex crimes against a former student at the school.
Victor Labaron Payne, a former science and physical education teacher at Escambia County Middle School, was convicted of second-degree rape, sexual abuse and enticing a minor for immoral purposes.
The charges stemmed from accusations by a former student at the school where Payne was employed. According to the charges, the incidents began when the victim was a fifth grade student at the school.
Early in the testimony, the prosecution played a taped recording of Payne's confession to officers on the day of his arrest. In the taped interview, Payne admitted to having sexual contact with the victim on one occasion and admitted to sexual intercourse with the victim on a separate occasion.
Defense attorney Armardo Pitters suggested Payne only admitted to the crime because he thought investigators would release him if he did.
"Why did you make that admission to the officers?" Pitters asked Payne.
"I had been there all day long and they wouldn't let me talk to my wife," Payne said. "I was tired and I just wanted to go home. I understood the process to be that we would come back to Brewton, be processed then have a bond hearing and I could go home. Nobody was believing what I was saying and all I wanted to do was go home."
In his taped confession, Payne admitted to being "caught" masturbating by the victim in the concession stand area of the gym at Escambia County Middle School.
Payne admitted to one incident of sexual intercourse with the victim, but the victim testified that she had sex with Payne on more than 30 occasions during her time at ECMS.
While on the stand, the victim also identified four pairs of underwear belonging to Payne that had been collected after Payne was arrested in October 2004.
During the trial, former school officials said they had held meetings about an alleged relationship between Payne and the student.
Former assistant principal Mona Simmons testified that she took notes at one of the meetings and turned her report in to Herbert Payne, the principal of the school at the time and also Victor Payne's uncle.
"Something like that you would expect (him) to give to the superintendent, wouldn't you?" prosecutor Reo Kirkland asked Simmons.
"Yes, sir," Simmons replied.
Kirkland said Herbert Payne testified that no record of the meeting was taken.
During her testimony, the victim revealed details of when the encounters occurred.
"You say this happened 30-plus times," Pitters said. "Is that what you have testified to?"
"Yes, it is," the victim said.
"What time of day did these 30-plus times of sexual intercourse take place between you and coach Payne?" Pitters asked.
"Sometimes in the morning when I was in first period P.E.," the victim testified. "Sometimes it would be in the afternoon when he would get me out of my late classes."
A second witness, who also has a case pending against Payne with similar allegations, took the stand and testified along the same line of questioning.
"Sometimes he (Payne) would check me out of Mrs. Tucker's class," she said. "Other times he would get me out of coach Larkin's class. It was at different times when he would get me out."
After the verdict, Pitters asked the judge to allow a bond to be set so that the defendant could be released to his family until sentencing could be held.
Byrne denied the request because the law disallows bond in these types of cases.
"Since his (Payne) possible sentence could exceed 20 years, the law says I am not at liberty to offer a way for him to be released," Byrne said. "He will be remanded to the custody of the Escambia County Sheriff's Department."
Sentencing in the case was set for May 23 at 9 a.m. Each of the three charges against Payne are classified as Class B felonies, which carry a possible sentence of at least two years, but not more than 20 years.
Two other cases involving two other middle school girls remain pending against Payne.