Payne sentenced to 21 years

Published 1:45 am Monday, May 28, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell
Victor Labaron Payne was sentenced to 21 years in prison by Circuit Court Judge Bradley Byrne Wednesday, but his new attorney said Friday Payne is considering an appeal.
In a March trial, Payne was found guilty of rape, second degree; sexual abuse, second degree; and enticing a minor for immoral purposes.
"The jury has spoken," Byrne said. "When parents send their children to school to be educated and protected that is trust. When adults take advantage of children, it tears apart that trust just as surely as that tornado tore apart Enterprise. Teachers should be above reproach. You have breached that trust in a grievous manner."
Byrne handed down the 21-year sentence in three parts. On the charge of rape, second degree, which is a Class B felony, Payne was sentenced to 180 months (15 years). On the charge of enticing a minor for immoral purposes, which is a Class C felony, Payne was sentenced to 60 months (five years). On charges of sexual abuse, second degree, which is a Class A misdemeanor, Payne was ordered to serve one year in the Escambia County Detention Center.
"There are two things the courts attempt to accomplish when sentence is pronounced on a person," Byrne said. "One is to punish the offender. The other is to deter other people from committing the same crime."
While incarcerated, Payne will have an opportunity to prepare for a second trial on similar charges filed against him by a second victim. A third case on similar charges is also pending.
A grand jury handed down an indictment against Payne charging him with rape, first and second degree; sexual abuse, first and second degree; and enticing a minor for immoral purposes following their spring 2007 session. The date for the trial in that case has not been set.
Since his first trial, Payne has since replaced attorney Armando Pitters with Brewton attorney Ernie White, who represented him at the sentencing hearing.
"We have not made an official motion for a new trial, but that is a possibility," White said Friday. "If an error in the trial is found that would be grounds for requesting a new trial. Ineffective representation could be another consideration in filing a motion for a new trial. We won't be able to determine whether or not we have grounds to make that motion until a complete review of the transcripts by our office is completed. Either way, a new trial would be tough. Once you're convicted it's an uphill battle."
Nearly a dozen witnesses took the stand to give their opinion of Payne before Byrne could pass sentence.
During questioning from White, each witness was asked a series of questions ranging from the familiarity with Payne to their knowledge of his personal and professional reputation. Each witness was asked if a prison sentence was right for Payne and whether they believed he could abide by the rules and regulations of probation.
Answers to the questions concerning his personal and professional reputation ranged from good to exemplary.
When the choice between prison and probation was presented to one witness, she said she believed everyone deserves a second chance.
"Sometimes people do better on a second chance than they did on their first chance," said Lillie D. Johnson, Atmore resident.
In cross examining witnesses, Reo Kirkland Jr., assistant district attorney for Escambia County, asked if any other teacher had breached the trust given to him at Escambia County Middle School.
As the victim in the case sat beside Kirkland in the courtroom, he addressed each witness with the same questions.
"Were you in the concession stand at Escambia County Middle School when Victor Payne was having sex with a 12-year-old girl?" Kirkland asked many of the witnesses.
Each witness replied he or she was not. Kirkland then said he had no further questions of the witness.
Kirkland told the judge the case was not a case for probation and should be treated as such.
"There was a breach of trust at Escambia County Middle School when Payne committed the crimes," Kirkland said. "This is not a case for probation. It is a case for the maximum sentence on all counts."

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