Justin J. Anthony, a 21-year-old resident of Hickory Street in Bunnell’s Mondex, or Daytona North, was already facing a felony charge stemming from what a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy described as his “propensity for continued violence” after he allegedly tried to run his ex-girlfriend over with his truck. She is also the mother of a child they have in common, and was pregnant at the time of the Oct. 28 incident, which two people witnessed. That case is pending in court. Anthony was free on bond.
On Friday (Dec. 31), Anthony was back at the Flagler County jail, arrested on a even more serious charge of statutory rape, a second-degree felony, involving a 13-year-old girl. That warrant had been signed on Nov. 30, the result of an alleged incident that took place on Oct. 10.
That day, according to his arrest report, Anthony had been riding around with three girls (ages 15, 13 and 12) when he was introduced to the 13 year old at a park in Palm Coast. They exchanged phone numbers. That night he allegedly snuck into the girl’s house. The girl’s parents were unaware. He then allegedly proceeded to have sex with the girl, staying over until morning, when he snuck back out, undetected. But that day the girl revealed to her parents that the encounter had taken place, and they reported it to law enforcement.
A Child Protection Team interviewed the girl the evening of Oct. 11, when she reported that upon telling Anthony that she was 13, he said: “I’m down.” She also produced several text messages making it clear that the encounter was to be sexual. At one point he wrote her, “were [sic.] not going to get in trouble” and “Trust me I’m not going to tell anybody.”
Agreeing to speak with a sheriff’s deputy the following day, Anthony said he’d asked his 15-year-old sister to hook him up with a girl, as he just wanted to “get some pleasure,” according to his arrest report. He said his sister introduced him to the younger girl. Anthony, the report states, “admitted to meeting” her at her house in Palm Coast for sex, but he thought she was 16. When he tried contacting the girl the next day, he was confronted by her guardian.
Under Florida law, it is illegal for anyone 18 and over to have sex with a person younger than 18, even if the encounter is consensual. In this case, if Anthony is convicted, the state’s Romeo and Juliet law would not apply, either. The law doesn’t eliminate the illegality of the encounter or any punishment that may follow, but it removes the sexual offender designation from following the perpetrator the rest of his or her life. But it only applies if the victim is no more than four years younger than the offender, and if the victim is between 14 and 17. Neither is the case between Anthony and his alleged victim.
Prosecutors and judges can show a degree of magnanimity even in such cases, pleading the offense down to child abuse, for example, as has been done in similar cases in the past, which would also prevent the sex-offender designation. But Anthony has on three occasions faced felonies before, been convicted, and, in a sign of judicial magnanimity, had his adjudication withheld, so he would not be branded a felon. Prosecutors may not be willing to extend the same favor so repeatedly.
His previous felony convictions in 2019 involved three drug charges (two third-degree felonies and a misdemeanor), and in a separate case, a conviction on a charge of interfering with the custody of a minor.
Anthony is being held at the county jail on $50,000 bond.