A year after first accusation, witness describes second alleged kidnapping, rape

A year after first accusation, witness describes second alleged kidnapping, rape

March 21st, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/25/14. James Leon Works Jr., an accused rapist, appears before Judge Barry A Steelman on the third floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse on September 25, 2014. Chattanooga police officer Karl Fields investigated the crime and was put on administrative leave after the alleged victim told the district attorney's office that Fields tried to have a sexual relationship with her while he investigated the crime.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Over three days, a woman told a jury Tuesday afternoon, James Leon Works Jr. punched her, kicked her, stomped on her chest, choked her, slammed her face into a piano, shoved a gun into her mouth and raped her.

She said Works kept her there, at his uncle's house on Forest Road in Fort Oglethorpe, until she managed to sneak away and call her mother, begging to be picked up. Works found out about the call, the woman testified, and he beat her again. When her mother arrived, he threw her out the door. Her mother drove her away and called police. When an officer returned to the house, Works was gone.

James Leon Works Jr.

James Leon Works Jr.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Works is now standing trial in Catoosa County Superior Court, where he faces 23 criminal charges, including kidnapping, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime. The accuser, who made similar allegations to Chattanooga police in 2014, described Works as a master manipulator, able to convince her to come back to him, even after past abuse. The prosecution also showed the jury photos of her after the incident in December 2015, showing bruises on her ankle, neck and chest. The Times Free Press does not identify alleged sexual assault victims.

On the stand Tuesday, she struggled to provide the jury with a clear, linear narrative of what Works did to her.

"It's a kick; it's a punch; it's a pull," she said, when Assistant District Attorney Clay Fuller asked her to fill in the blanks of what happened to her at a specific moment in her story. "... It's a surprise, what it's going to be. You never know. But it's going to be something."

Works' attorney, public defender David Dunn, tried to chip away at the woman's credibility. For starters, the woman admitted to using methamphetamine in the past. Asked when was the last time she used the drug, the woman said, "a few months" earlier.

While the woman was on the stand, Dunn asked if Works ever prevented her from leaving.

"I was not allowed to go outside," the woman said.

"Who stopped you?" Dunn asked.

"He did," she said.

"Physically?" he asked.

"In a round-about way," she said.

Dunn also asked about the 2014 case, when the woman told Chattanooga police he kidnapped her in a hotel room and raped her several times. She said she had been seeing Works. But when they used methamphetamine, she said he became enraged, beating her, running a small torch across her back, tying her up, urinating in her mouth and shoving her head in a urinal.

Chattanooga police arrested Works in that case. But the detective, Karl Fields, persuaded the woman to have a sexual relationship with him. This led to Fields' firing. In a subsequent trial against Fields for tampering with evidence and official misconduct, an outside prosecutor argued Fields tried to hide a video of Works and the woman having consensual sex, which could have helped exonerate Works.

A judge later dismissed the charges against Fields. Works, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and left jail, after spending 13 months behind bars pending trial.

After all of that, Dunn asked the woman Tuesday, why did she go back to Works a year later? The woman said she thought his behavior was a one-time problem, that Works had gone into a rage after doing methamphetamine.

"He could hold a congregation, if he wanted to," she said. "But he is also Satan on Earth."

Previous accusers

As the trial continues, the jury will hear testimony from women who used to date Works. Dunn objected to these witnesses before the trial started Tuesday, arguing their testimony isn't relevant to the specific case at hand. Superior Court Judge Kristina Cook Graham ruled against him.

During his opening argument, Dunn told the jury not to prosecute Works for allegations from past relationships: "Keep your eye on the ball. Focus on what is important, which is the indictment before you."

During a pretrial hearing, the women explained what they would tell a jury. One woman, who was in a relationship with Works for 13 years and is the mother of two of his children, said he threatened to kill her during some arguments.

Another woman, who dated Works for six years, said he punched her and choked her multiple times. After one beating, she said, he made her take off her clothes and curl up in a shallow hole. She said he threw dirt on her and gave her a straw to breathe out of. She was not fully covered up.

A third woman said Works beat her for hours inside Camp Jordan one night in December 2016. She said he threatened her with a hammer and made her perform oral sex on him while he taped her with his phone. Hamilton County prosecutors later dropped charges of rape and kidnapping because they didn't think they could prove the allegations, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle told the Times Free Press last year.

Instead, he pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated domestic assault.

"You seem upset about that," Fuller told the woman Tuesday, when asking about the reduced charge. "Is that fair to say?"

"They made me feel like I did something wrong," the woman said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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