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Mentally disabled man testifies of sexual assault while at trial for former Tampa teacher

James Frederick Beaver Jr. is accused of sexual battery on a mentally disabled man.
James Frederick Beaver Jr. is accused of sexual battery on a mentally disabled man.
Published Sep. 18, 2018

TAMPA — For much of his life, the 24-year-old man has attended special education classes. He can't read, writes only his name and needs supervision to cook or clean. With the mental capacity of a first-grader, he trusts everyone he meets.

On Tuesday, he testified in a Tampa courtroom. A prosecutor asked him to talk about what the defendant had done to him.

Defendant James Frederick Beaver Jr., 54, is a former Hillsborough County special needs teacher. The state says he spotted the victim on the street one night last year, invited him to an apartment, got him to smoke methamphetamine, then committed sex acts on him.

Beaver says that the sex was consensual, that no crime was committed.

He is on trial this week on multiple counts of sexual battery.

The victim gave short answers, his voice low, his words slow. He wore a crisp, white dress shirt and khakis for his day in court. He gazed around the room curiously, at one moment locking eyes with Beaver, who sat nearby.

Assistant State Attorney Lindsey Hodges asked the victim about the difference between the truth and a lie. She asked who his favorite superhero was.

"Superman," he said.

She asked if Superman was real or fake.

"Fake," he said.

She asked who was real.

"God," he said.

Who else?

"You and me."

Hodges then guided him through a retelling of the events of Aug. 14 and 15, 2017.

He said he'd been locked out of his house and was walking around his South Tampa neighborhood. Beaver pulled up beside him in a blue truck and asked him to get in.

They went to Beaver's apartment in a complex on Lois Avenue. Beaver told him to undress and take a bath, the victim said. When the younger man got out, Beaver gave him collard greens soup and juice.

Then, he showed him how to smoke a powdered substance from a piece of foil, the victim testified.

"It looked like brown sugar," he said.

Beaver played a video of a man and a woman having sex.

The two men got into bed. Beaver put a condom on the victim and engaged in sexual activity, the victim testified.

Hodges asked if he had wanted Beaver to put anything in what she called his "booty."

"No," he said.

She asked, repeatedly, if he'd given permission for Beaver to do these things.

"No."

The next morning, the victim left the apartment. His mother had reported him missing when he didn't come home the previous evening. A police officer spotted him walking near the entrance to the apartment.

His mother told the jury Monday that her son took a shower once home. He wouldn't say where he'd been. She noticed a condom in the bathroom sink.

Later that day, the victim left home, walked to a gas station, and asked a clerk to call 911. It was then that he told police what had happened. He seemed agitated and nervous, an officer testified.

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He was taken to a crisis center, where nurses conducted a sexual assault examination. Tests of a urine sample revealed traces of methamphetamine.

A different version of events emerged Tuesday afternoon when the state played an audio recording of Beaver's interview with sex crime detectives.

In the audio, recorded inside a police car, Beaver said that he'd been throwing up the day before police came. He said he left the house late in the evening to pick up Mountain Dew. When he got back, he saw the victim near the front of the apartment complex.

"I don't know his name, but I've seen him walking," he said. "He kept talking about these females. … When I smelled him he smelled like drugs. So I don't know if he's homeless or what."

Beaver said he invited the victim home to let him eat and get cleaned up. He said he had taught students who were like the victim, then told the detectives he used to be a teacher at Mendez Exceptional Center.

He said he gathered some clothing for the victim to wear. He said the victim kept talking about going to pick up girls.

"He just kept going very childish," he said. "It was very much like the students I used to have."

He said the victim had seen a pornographic video on Beaver's phone. The detectives asked if anything "got heated" or "out of control." Beaver first said no, but when pressed, said they got naked and touched each other.

"He didn't act like he was not interested," Beaver said.

When police executed a search warrant at Beaver's apartment, they found in the trash a Walmart receipt dated Aug. 14, 2017, which showed a purchase of condoms and lubricating oil. They also found a pair of used condoms and a baggie they said contained methamphetamine.

Testimony continued late Tuesday.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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