An 18-year-old Stephenville man was arrested Tuesday night and charged with aggravated sexual assault for allegedly having consensual sex with a 13-year-old female.
Carl David Straws was arrested at his workplace by authorities and transported to the Erath County Jail, held on a $20,000 bond.
Authorities first learned about the case in June when the child’s doctor informed police that she was sexually active, according to Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell. By law, those in the healthcare profession are required to report situations when patients 13 or younger are found to be sexually active.
During an interview with the victim, investigators learned the identity of Straws.
District Attorney John Terrill said his office will move forward with the case.
“We are talking about a 13-year old victim here - and that’s what matters,” Terrill said.
In cases of aggravated sexual assault involving minors, the law does not distinguish between consent and non-consent.
“The law states that if the victim is younger than 17, consent is never an issue,” District Attorney John Terrill said.
However, there is a provision in the law that states if a victim is 14, 15 or 16 and if there is not more than a three-year age difference between the victim and the perpetrator, a “boyfriend” defense can be raised in situations when there is consent.
But in this case, there was a four-year age difference (the perpetrator was 17 at the time of the alleged assault) and the victim was only 13, making the charge a first-degree felony offense punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison.
Terrill said the most important thing he would like to see happen is for kids to have a better understanding of the law.
“Kids need to understand that when they are involved with someone who is younger than 17, they’re taking a big risk,” he said. “One indiscretion can ruin a young, promising life.”
Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.