Friday, January 25, 2013

Navarro County judge stacks Texas blogger's three 10-year sentences in connection with child sexual assault conviction

CORSICANA, TX -- Navarro County Judge James Lagomarsino of 13th District Court ruled controversial Texas blogger Joey Dauben must serve three 10-year sentences consecutively for his conviction in connection with a 2007 sexual assault on a 14-year-old male teenager, according to a court representative.

The judge's ruling on Jan. 25 that the three sentences will be stacked rather than allowing 31-year-old Dauben to serve them concurrently, means that the blogger will not be eligible for parole for 15 years. He will be 45 if he is granted a release at his first parole hearing, and then he must serve 10 years probation on a fourth sentence related to a charge of indecency with a minor for which the jury recommended probation.

All four counts of which Dauben was convicted occurred during one incident with a teenager during a church camping trip where the blogger served as a chaperon. A formal complaint was not filed by the teenager until December of 2010, and it was not investigated by law enforcement agencies until July 2011. An indictment was returned by a Navarro County grand jury in December 2011. The indictment included four charges, one for each sexual act that was alleged to have occurred during one encounter between Dauben and the victim.

Dauben, who proclaimed his innocence and attributed the indictment to a political conspiracy against him as payback for his reporting about public officials on his blog the Ellis County Observer, rejected a plea bargain offer from District Attorney Lowell Thompson that would have allowed him to serve 10 years deferred probation but required him to register as a sex offender for life.

Dauben's father, David Dauben, who sat through every day of his son's six-day trial and the hearing on stacking the charges that the district attorney sought, said his son appeared not to react to the judge's decision.

There is no evidence that Dauben had ever engaged in sexual activity with a minor before or since the 2007 crime. The victim testified that he did not object to sexual advances made by Dauben.

District Attorney Thompson previously said that his office was sending a message that Navarro County is tough on child sexual assault cases.

As it is with murder, there is no statute of limitations on child sexual assault. Any individual under the age of 17 in Texas cannot legally give their consent to sexual activity, and anyone engaging in sex with a minor can face up to 20 years in prison for each sexual act alleged.

The age of consent varies from state-to-state, but if a youth is traveling from one state to another the legal age of consent is 18, regardless of what the age is in their home state.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Colorado family loses toy poodle on Christmas trip; now Texas animal lover searches for family

KAUFMAN, TX -- On Christmas Eve a Colorado family visiting in Texas inquired at the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake about their lost toy poodle, but sadly they went away empty-handed.

Two weeks later, animal control officers brought in a tiny black poodle weighing about six pounds they found wandering loose in Kaufman, which is about 45 miles southeast of Dallas. Unfortunately, the family driving a car with Colorado license plates failed to leave their phone number or other information at the Humane Society.

Humane Society board of directors member Barbara Hall took the poodle to her Kaufman home, and she is doing everything she can to locate the family. Colorado's The Denver Channel 7, an ABC affiliate, ran a story on their website after Hall contacted them.

"This is one of those things that just really pulls at your heart strings," said Hall in a telephone interview. "There's not much else I can do."

Hall said she called the local schools to make announcements in case someone knew the family because a young girl accompanied by her mother inquired about her lost pet at the Humane Society. Hall also asked for help from the Kaufman Herald, and she called every grooming shop and other pet-friendly business that came to mind.

"She's just the sweetest little thing you've ever seen," said Hall, who estimated the dog is about two years old. "If I can't find the family, I'm going to adopt her myself."

If you know the family that lost the dog contact Hall at

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alcohol binge, underage companionship lead to disaster

By David Webb

After sitting through a surreal, six-day child sexual assault trial recently I came away with the knowledge that the least likely of people can fall victim to disaster if they are foolish enough to consume alcohol with a minor who legally cannot give consent to sexually activity.

The outcome of the trial of Joey Dauben, a former Texas blogger who specialized in rooting out and uncovering child pornography rings and sexual predators, left me dazed. For a year after his indictment I believed he would be acquitted, but two days into the trial I began to experience a sinking feeling that Dauben, 31, harbored an ugly secret that would soon send him to prison as a sexual offender.

It seemed impossible that the youthful, charming Dauben who came from a humble background and seemed so driven to be someone someday could succumb to a fate so sinister that it would destroy his life. But he apparently did, and nothing will ever erase the stigma he must now carry for the rest of his life as a registered sex offender. Certainly, he will never achieve his goal of attaining an elected office, a goal he had unsuccessfully sought several times before his arrest.

The most shocking part of the crime was that it involved a 14-year-old male teenager attending a church camping trip that Dauben helped chaperone.  It took the seven-man, five-woman jury only two hours to convict Dauben and only slightly longer to sentence him to four 10-year stints in state prison with only one sentence to be probated.

To the best of my knowledge Dauben was straight, but apparently anything can happen late at night when two people are drinking alcohol alone. The once-promising writer who started off in high school as a sports reporter for a small town Texas newspaper an hour out of Dallas acknowledged to me after the verdict he was highly intoxicated on the night of the crime.

It didn’t matter that the teenager, now 20, testified he willingly participated in the sexual activity, and that he came from a broken, troubled home that probably contributed to him being alone late at night drinking with an adult 12 years older than him. Nor does it matter that the crime occurred in 2007, six years ago, when Dauben was 26. In Texas, there is no statute of limitations on the crime of child sexual assault, which legally defines any person younger than 17 as a child.

The age of consent varies from state-to-state, and it is incumbent upon the adult to be sure that the person is of legal age. When a teenager is traveling, the age of consent is 18, no matter what the legal age is in their home state. In Texas, it is also illegal to provide alcohol to a minor under the age of 21.

The Texas youth did not make an “outcry” about the sexual contact with Dauben until the summer of 2008, a year after it happened, when he told a friend, who told a pastor, who told the youth’s father. Then after that, it still took until the summer of 2011 for an active investigation to get underway led by the Texas Rangers and the Navarro County Sheriff’s Department of Corsicana, Texas.

After his arrest and indictment in December 2011, Dauben declared his innocence and alleged that he was the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by the political establishment he regularly criticized on his blog the I found the thought of a political conspiracy a little far-fetched, but I considered the possibility that law enforcement officials had put a little extra effort in investigating an allegation against someone who rankled them.

 During the trial, the youth’s mother testified she made numerous phone calls over many months’ time before she convinced a Texas Ranger to act on her complaint.

Another peculiar element of the saga emerged when I learned a sizable number of people had complained that the blogger unfairly and unjustly accused them of sexual assault and other crimes and improprieties.  A group of people went so far as to start following a blog produced by an enemy of Dauben's where they could support each other and vent their rage about Dauben’s outrageous reporting. Some have went so far as to say they were looking forward to Dauben going to prison and being gang-raped. They have branded Dauben a sexual predator, even though there is no evidence of any other sexual improprieties with underage individuals. Earlier this year, the blog was shut down by the hosting company because of hate speech, but the author of the blog relaunched it on another hosting service.

Oddly, many other people Dauben befriended viewed him as “good-hearted” and a champion for them against government oppression. They could not believe he committed the crime of which he was accused.

 It all came to a head in a district state court recently, and a made-for-television movie could not have proved more heart-wrenching. On one hand, the jury heard from the victim, his brother, and his mother. They heard about the confusion and distress and even the physical pain the victim felt after engaging in sex with Dauben. The victim, whose sexual orientation is unclear, also testified he received suggestive electronic messages from Dauben that made him feel uneasy.

On the other hand, Dauben’s anguished mother testified on his behalf in the evidentiary phase of the trial, and friends whom he had helped took the stand for him during the punishment phase.
When Dauben took the stand against his lawyer’s advice, the jury obviously saw a deeply troubled man who might be suffering from paranoid delusions and denial. He repeatedly broke down and cried on the stand. It was unclear whether Dauben’s mental problems began prior to the crime he committed six years ago or if they began later, slowly festering afterwards as fear enveloped him about the crime.

I later learned Dauben, whose lawyer described him to the jury as “small and not strong,” had himself suffered molestation from older boys and possibly an adult who is now deceased when he was young, according to him. That possibly motivated him at least in part to become an activist fighting child pornography and child sexual assault and trying to solve missing child cases, which appear to usually be the work of sexual predators.

Now, Dauben is sitting in the Navarro County Jail waiting for the judge to determine whether the three 10-year-sentences he received will be stacked or if he will be allowed to serve them concurrently. Depending on the decision, the earliest date he will be eligible for parole will be after serving five years or 15 years.

In addition to the four felonies of which he was convicted in connection with the child sexual assault, Dauben was convicted of a fifth felony in November 2012 for fraudulent use of identifying information in connection with a story he wrote falsely accusing a man of sexually assaulting his own child. That conviction led to a five-year probated sentence.

It’s hard to make sense of Dauben’s relentless, reckless pursuit of villains unless his fear about being discovered led him to it in an effort to divert suspicion from himself. In turn, the subjects of his reports and others in the community probably became fearful of him, leading to complaints to law enforcement authorities and the Ellis County charges. It became a vicious cycle that eventually ensnared Dauben.

The former blogger, who once said in an interview in a Dallas newspaper that he hoped one day to run for and be elected President of the United States faces, now faces the prospect  of spending what could have been the most productive years of his life in the hell of an Texas prison.  He may well become the victim of a sexual assault himself as inmates convicted of child sexual assault often become targets of gang rapes and other physical and mental abuse in prison, according to testimony presented to the jury.

Some of the last words Dauben said to me in the courtroom before the bailiff led him off in handcuffs were, “I’m going to take responsibility for this.” He noted that he had his last drink of alcohol on Nov. 26, 2011.

In the end, one night of reckless abandon ruined two  people’s  lives – one a young teenager, the other a young adult -- and neither one will ever be quite what they might have been had they not lingered  inappropriately on the shore of a Texas lake one sultry night drinking alcohol six years ago.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered all phases of the news for the mainstream and alternative media for more than three decades. He is now a freelancer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Texas jury gives ex-blogger 10 years each on 4 counts in connection with 2007 child sexual assault

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- A Navarro County jury handed down four 10-year sentences to ex-blogger Joey Dauben  on Jan. 14 in connection with a 2007 sexual assault on a 14-year-old male teenager.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women deliberated about two and one-half hours before reaching the punishment verdict. It granted probation and suspended a $2,500 fine on one count of indecency with a child, but the jury denied probation and assessed $2,500 fines on the three counts of sexual assault involved in the crime that occurred during a church camping trip at a lake park.

Judge James Lagomarsino of 13th District Court will consider next week a prosecution motion to stack the charges rather than allowing Dauben to serve them concurrently. The judge delayed ruling on the motion until the probation department can conduct a pre-sentencing investigation.

If the judge grants the prosecution motion Dauben's initial sentence will be 30 years in prison, but it will drop to 10 years if the judge denies it.

The jury could have given Dauben sentences of anywhere from two to 20 years on each count with  fines of up to $10,000. He will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least half of his sentence, which does not take into consideration time off for good behavior.

Defense attorney Ed Jendrzey urged the jury to grant probation on all counts of the conviction that was reached Jan. 11 in the six-day trial. He called it a "strange case", and he urged the jury to grant Dauben "mercy."

He called the crime a one-time aberration that occurred during a late-night drinking binge during the camping trip. The victim, who is now 20, testified that he willingly participated in the sexual activity.

Jendrzey said Dauben needed treatment rather incarceration. He noted that the ex-blogger is small and not strong, and he could be severely injured or even killed in prison.

"Do you want Joey to be locked up and tatooed up?" Jendrzey said. "Use your common sense. You know what happens in prison."

Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Wolf said the jury needed to send a message that sexual assault is the type of crime that will not be tolerated in Navarro County.

"I don't believe that is the kind of person you give probation to," Wolf said. "Let the punishment fit the crime."

Wolf suggested the jury start with 20 years on each count and "chip away" at it if they found any redeeming value in Dauben,

Dauben said just prior to the jury returning its punishment verdict that he would not complain about what sentence he received, which he expected would involve him spending time in prison.

"I've been prepared for this for a long time," said Dauben, who noted during trial testimony that drinking with the teenager and going out in a boat with him had been the biggest mistake of his life. "I'm being held accountable now, and I'm going to take responsibility for it."

Several witnesses testified for Dauben in a hearing prior to the charging instructions being read to the jury. They all described him as someone who was "good-hearted" and helpful to them in the past.

Neither the victim nor any members of his family attended the trial after testifying against him at the beginning.

Dauben was taken into custody at the Navarro County Jail at the conclusion of the trial.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Texas jury convicts former blog publisher of child sexual assault; he faces up to 80 years in prison

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- A Navarro County jury took only two hours on Jan. 11 to convict former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joseph G. Dauben of three counts of child sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child in connection with a 2007 crime at a church camping trip.

Judge James Lagomarsino of 13th District Court sent the jury home for the weekend, ordering it to return the following Monday to begin punishment proceedings. Dauben could be sentenced to up to 80 years in prison if the jury opts not to give him probation.

Before the court recessed, defense attorney Ed Jendrzey called Dauben to the witness stand, and the former blogger told the jury he accepted their verdict. During his testimony he told the jury about his conviction in Ellis County in November of fraudulent use of identifying information when he published a story about a man he falsely accused of sexual abuse  -- the same crime of which he is now convicted.

Dauben said that he has come to realize that his reckless reporting without regard for the truth on his blog and in his newspapers had injured many people. That realization apparently left him at a loss for words when his attorney asked him if he wanted the jury to grant him probation and prosecutor Andrew Wolf challenged him to tell the jury why he might deserve it.

The defendant admitted that in the past he had written that no one convicted of child sexual assault should ever be given probation and that it should result instead in an "automatic death sentence" or at the very least life in prison.

"If they were to  hold me to the same standard that I frequently issued from the Ellis County Observer then I would have to say no," said Dauben, who sobbed through much of his testimony and seemed unable to ask the jury for probation. "I was unmerciful, and I was unforgiving."

When Wolf asked him to acknowledge responsibility for the molestation of a 14-year-old male at a church camping trip in 2007 for which the jury convicted him, Dauben would not. In response to the prosecutor asking him if he was still claiming he was being falsely accused, the defendant answered, "I'm not going to say I did something when I didn't," Dauben said.

"Probation is for rehabilitation," Wolf said. "Do you think it is possible to rehabilitate someone who doesn't admit they've done something wrong?"

Dauben told the jury that he still thought he would benefit from probation, and he understood all of its conditions, which include lifetime registration as a sex offender and treatment.

Near the conclusion of his testimony, Dauben finally responded with a weak, "Yes," as his attorney prodded him to tell the jury whether he was asking it for probation.

"If your hearts are as loving and forgiving and merciful as mine has changed into, then I'm asking you for probation," said Dauben, who claims to have had a spiritual awakening while serving time in jail in Ellis County in Waxahachie after his conviction last year. He was released on $50,000 bond in Navarro County Dec. 21, just about two weeks before his trial began on the sexual assault charges in Corsicana.

Dauben said he realized that  his days in journalism are over, and that if he is released on bond he will get a "real job."

While on the stand Dauben told the jury that some of the stories he published under the Ellis County Observer banner benefited Ellis County. He cited the closure of Kevin's House, a halfway house where he claimed probationers allegedly got sexually assaulted, as one of them. He said he also uncovered a child pornography ring and a link between missing children in Dallas-Fort Worth, West Texas and Seattle that ties back to Ellis County.

Dauben continued to sob as he spoke of the "evil" he had seen, and he claimed that "nothing is being done about it."

Prior to the jury's deliberations, Judge Lagomarsino took the unusual step of reopening the evidence portion of the trial on the request of the defense over the objections of the prosecution to allow evidence to be entered that showed electronic communications between the witness and the victim had been sent to the Texas Rangers for its investigation.

During the closing arguments the prosecution acknowledged that law enforcement agencies had failed to properly handle the complaint the mother of the victim attempted to file with several of them.

"The ball was dropped," Wolf said. "There was a gap there that shouldn't have been."

Jendrzey told the jury that it is "difficult to prove something didn't happen" once a criminal complaint reaches the indictment stage. He claimed that Dauben had cooperated fully with investigators working on the case, acknowledging being at the church camping trip, drinking with the teenagers and going for the boat ride -- every major point except providing the alcohol and sexually assaulting the 14-year-old in a park shower house.

Prosecutor Amy Cadwell seemed to acknowledge in her closing statement that Dauben might not have provided the alcohol when she said that it didn't matter if the victim brought it from his father's tent. As the adult, Dauben had the responsibility to keep the situation under control, she said.

Cadwell said the fact that Dauben confirmed most of what the victim alleged in his "outcry," showed his guilt. "Joey knew exactly what he had done," she said. "He knew he had committed sexual assault."

After the conviction, District Attorney Lowell Thompson said his office would ask the jury to assess prison time for Dauben, and he expressed confidence that justice had been served.

 "If I don't believe it happened or that it is valid, I would never prosecute it," Thompson said.

A group of representatives of the Child Advocacy Center in Navarro County attended the last two days of the trial, but the victim and his family members who testified over a two-day period earlier in the week did not.

Dauben's girlfriend with whom he has been involved for about a year moved out of state prior to the trial and did not return for it. The defendant said she urged him to take the witness stand in his own defense, while his lawyer, family and friends urged him not to do that.

After Judge Lagomarsino sent the jury home, he granted a defense motion to allow Dauben to return home for the weekend over the prosecution's objections. The defendant's ankle monitor that was removed for the trial was reattached by a probation department representative.

Judge Lagomarsino warned Dauben to return Monday for the punishment phase and to not contact any witnesses in the case.

"It probably will do you well to lay low and remain close to home this weekend," Judge Lagomarsino said.

When the punishment phase continues, Dauben's parents are expected to testify and plead with the jury to give their son probation.

Former Palmer Mayor Don Huskins has already testified that he believes Dauben should be granted probation. The former mayor, who was previously Dauben's landlord, said he never had any concern about the defendant being around his children, and that he never had any problems with him.

"Today is my birthday," said, who told the jury he thinks Dauben has a "good heart" and that he helped the City of Palmer when he lived there. "If I didn't believe in him, I wouldn't be here."

Dauben left the courtroom with his obviously distraught parents for what could be his last weekend of freedom for many years. The prosecution has already filed a motion asking Judge Lagomarsino to stack the sentences handed down by the jury, rather than letting him serve them concurrently.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Former Texas blogger chooses to testify in his trial

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- Against his lawyer's advice, controversial former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joseph G. Dauben testified Jan. 10 in his trial on child sexual assault charges.

Dauben appeared to briefly lose control of his emotions and sob during two previous days of graphic testimony by prosecution witnesses about his alleged sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old male at a church camping trip in 2007. But when he took the witness stand he quickly returned fire. Just a few minutes into his testimony, the former blogger declared himself a victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by Ellis County's political establishment.

"Those allegations are absolutely false," said Dauben, who rejected four plea bargain offers from the prosecution prior to the trial, including one that would have deferred probation for 10 years but required him to register as a sex offender for life. "I've been waiting for this trial for a long time."

Dauben continued to profess his innocence in response to defense attorney Ed Jendrzey's questions as Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wolf repeatedly objected to the former blog publisher's answers being beyond the scope of the questions actually asked him by his attorney.

After repeated motions for objection and sustainments, it took a gavel-slamming from Judge James Lagomarsino of Navarro County's 13th District Court to quieten Dauben in mid-sentence at one point.

During his testimony, Dauben denied engaging in the four counts of sexual assault detailed by his accuser, who is now 20, the previous day. He repeatedly responded, "That is absolutely 100 percent false," when asked if he provided liquor to three teenagers, if he entered a shower house at Navarro Mills Reservoir Park with the 14-year-old and if his story about the evening had varied since he was indicted in December 2011.

Dauben told the jury he believed he was "set-up" for prosecution by the father of the 14-year-old, who briefly attended the Saturday Bible Study meetings of the Olive Tree Ministries church in Waxahachie. The former blogger said he believed he was targeted because of his investigative reporting that he claimed shut down a halfway house called Kevin's House because of a sex scandal.

Although his case was investigated by the Texas Rangers and the Navarro County Sheriff's Department, Dauben said he believed that Ellis County's political establishment had managed to get him indicted and arrested. He claimed that his investigative stories had angered a judge, the probation department and elected officials in Ellis County.

Dauben admitted being "buzzed," but he denied losing control as a result of drinking alcohol the evening of the alleged sexual assault. "I was not intoxicated to the point I didn't know what was going on," he said.

Dauben said the 14-year-old had taken a bottle of Wild Turkey from his father's tent and brought it to the campfire where the four were talking. The former blogger said he took a swig from the bottle, but the youth drank more of it.

The former blogger said he was not supervising the teenagers, but he now realizes it was wrong to be drinking alcohol with them. He said that he took "full responsibility" for not acting more responsibly in regard to not objecting to underage teenagers drinking alcohol.

"I don't believe it was appropriate for anyone to be drinking out there," said Dauben, who noted he has not had a drink of alcohol since Nov. 26, 2011.

Dauben said that after the 14-year-old asked him for a ride in his inflatable boat in a cove of the lake, he initially agreed but thought better of it soon after they left shore. The former blogger said he paddled back to the shore.

"I said, 'This does not look right. This is not right. Let's go back to the campsite,'" said Dauben, who added he put the boat up and went to bed in a church tent. The teenager presumably went to bed in his family's tent, he said.

His testimony contradicted that of the alleged victim, who said they paddled out into the middle of the cove and from there paddled to the shower house where the sexual misconduct allegedly occurred.

Dauben said he didn't see the teenager again after the camping trip, but he exchanged some electronic mesages with him. At some point soon after the camping trip, the teenager accused him of "doing something to him" that he was upset about but wouldn't tell him what it was.

Later, the teenager and two of his friends sent more messages to him with the same mysterious message, Dauben said. Instead of blocking them from sending him messages, he continued to allow the transmission of them, he said.

"I was trying to find out from him and his friends what he was accusing me of doing," said Dauben, who noted he told the pastor of the church about it.

At one point in his testimony, Dauben told the jury that taking the boat out in the lake with the teenager on it was the "biggest mistake" of his life. But he continued to deny engaging in any inappropriate activity.

"I did not do anything sexual as he has falsely accused me of doing," said Dauben, whose testimony was watched by two members of the alleged victim's family who silently watched without expression.

After Dauben stepped down from the witness stand, Jendzrey called the Ellis County Observer's former webmaster Bruce Hernandez as a witness. The former webmaster claimed that not long after the camping trip, the teenager sent him a threatening message.

"He sent me a threat to make an accusation -- that he would accuse me of being a child molester," Hernandez said. A joke that he sent the teenager in response to a message he received apparently led to the threatening message, he said. "He called me a weirdo, and he threatened to contact law enforcement.

Under cross examination by the prosecution, Hernandez acknowledged the teenager possibly could have been fearful of his intentions if a sexual assault by one of his associates had indeed occurred during the camping trip.

When the defense rested, the prosecution called Brandy Owens, the former managing editor of the Ellis County Observer to the stand. She admitted being reluctant to testify, and she acknowledged  receiving a subpoena.

Owen said Dauben spoke to her about the allegations in late 2011, and that he told her he went out on the lake with the teenager and that they went to the restroom before going to their respective tents. Although she initially supported Dauben, Owens said she had doubts about the veracity of his explanation. "It just didn't sound right," she said.

Finally, the prosecution recalled Texas Ranger Jason Bobo to the stand, and he was asked if on major points known only to law enforcement and the parties involved in the alleged assault which version of events in his investigation most closely matched, Owens' or Dauben's? The Texas Ranger said Owens matched more closely.

Both the prosecution and defense have now rested their cases. When the trial resumes the closing arguments will be heard, and the jury will be given instructions and begin deliberations.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Youth testifies former Texas blog publisher 'raped' him

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- The alleged victim of a sexual assault of a child by former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joseph G. Dauben took the witness stand against him today, Jan. 9, in Navarro County.

The 20-year-old, who was 14 when the alleged sexual assault occurred during a church camping trip at the end of September in 2007, claimed the controversial blogger fed him whiskey and seduced him in a shower house at a lake park known as Navarro Mills. The sexual activity included touching and oral and anal sex, he testified in Judge James Lagomarsino's 13th District Court.

The alleged victim said he willingly engaged in sex with Dauben because he didn't want him to think he was "uncool." The former blogger told him all guys fooled around, he said.

"I was confused," the alleged victim said. "I was just doing what I thought would be normal. I didn't want to be weird so I just went with it."

The alleged victim said he saw Dauben a couple of times at Olive Tree Church in Waxahachie prior to the camping trip, but that he didn't know him until the former blogger arrived at the park that day with an inflatable raft boat tied on the top of his car.

During the testimony, he claimed that Dauben brought a bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey to the park with him and poured drinks for him and two other teenagers. Then he suggested they play a game of who could drink the fastest, he said.

Later, the other two teenagers went to their campsite beds, but he and Dauben paddled out into the middle of a cove on the lake next to the campsite, the alleged victim said. While on the boat Dauben started talking about masturbation and oral sex, he said.

"I was taken aback," he said. "I was uncomfortable. Then I started thinking of ways to get back."

The alleged victim said he asked Dauben if he wanted to masturbate and when the former blogger said "yes," he suggested they paddle back to shore to the shower houses. He said he asked Dauben that because the former blog publisher told him he had not masturbated in several days.

"He thought that was a good idea, and he paddled back to the shore," he said. "And I pointed out the showers."

The alleged victim said he went inside the showers with Dauben because the former blogger told him he needed help turning on the shower. Then the blogger told him he got really loud when he masturbated and asked him to stand outside to see if he could hear him.

He said that he didn't hear anything so he returned inside because he "didn't want to be alone." Once inside, he said that he sat down on a bench to wait for Dauben. "I thought he would take a shower and do what he was going to do," he said.

Instead, Dauben came around the wall to where he was sitting, and the former blogger was naked. "I thought it was awkward, but I didn't want to seem uncool," he said.

Dauben started undressing him, and he helped the former blogger finish taking his clothes off, he said. Then he participated willingly in all of the sex acts, he said.

During the graphic testimony, Dauben put his hands over his face and turned away from the jury box. The witness spoke calmly and without emotion, ignoring the former blogger's distress.

Afterwards, the alleged victim said Dauben went to the pastor's tent to go to sleep, and he went to the tent he was sharing with his father and stepmother, he said. The next day when he awakened Dauben had left the camping party, he said. "I was thinking, gross," he said. "It was weird, and I was confused."

The alleged victim said he told a teenage girl who had been drinking with them the night before about what had happened, but she didn't believe him.

In the aftermath of the incident, the alleged victim said he became an angry child. "I was violent," he said.

The prosecutors produced copies of electronic messages exchanged between Dauben and the alleged victim on Oct. 6, 2007. He said that the content of one message made him think Dauben wanted to repeat the activity.

The copy of the messages entered into evidence by the prosecution shows that Dauben sent out a bulletin message to all of his My Space friends telling them that he was in Washington, D.C. at a political meeting. The next message shows that the alleged victim responded to the bulletin with the message, "That's awesome. What exactly are you doing up there?" Dauben responded that he was attending a public policy hearing and said, "Let's get together. I think I hear a shower calling my name."

"I thought he wanted to have sex in the shower because it had happened before," he said.

In another message produced by the prosecution, Dauben writes that he "made a mess" on his keyboard, causing his computer to freeze. That message made him think the former blogger was referring to semen on the keyboard, he said.

The alleged victim said he began to feel confused about his sexual identity, and that he did not want to press charges against Dauben. "I didn't want people to think I was gay, and I didn't want to get in trouble," he said.

By December 2010 when he went to the Child Advocacy Center and gave a statement to them at the bequest of the Navarro County Sheriff's Department and the Texas Rangers, the alleged victim said his attitude had changed. Seeing a picture of Dauben with some teenagers changed his mind, he said.

"I thought no kid should have to go through what I did," he said. "That's when I decided it was my responsibility."

During cross-examination by defense attorney Ed Jendrzey, the alleged victim said he now believes Dauben "raped" him.

The alleged victim also told Jendrzey that he left his father's home once to live with his mother because his stepbrother was "making passes" at him by suggesting games of spin the bottle, that his uncle and brother-in-law had got him drunk before the camping trip once at a wedding and that his father once disappeared for six months because he feared that his stepdaughter was going to file charges of physical assault against him. His step-siblings now live in foster care because his father and stepmother disappeared in August 2008 after he made his "outcry" about being sexually assaulted, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wolf also called a sex addiction treatment counselor to the witness stand to testify about his evaluation of Dauben's electronic messaging with the alleged victim and a newspaper article about the former blog publisher.

David Stebbins, a licensed professional counselor for the University of Texas Medical System, testified he determined from the materials sent to him a year ago by the prosecution that Dauben had used the technique of "grooming" to seduce the alleged victim in 2007. That technique is used by sex addicts to gain control of victims, and it can be accomplished in minutes, days, weeks or months, depending upon the individuals involved, he said.

Stebbins said alcohol is often used as part of the grooming process because it breaks down inhibitions.

The defense attorney objected to the testimony because Stebbins had no personal contact with either the alleged victim or Dauben, and he came to court without any of the materials he examined. Judge Lagomarsino allowed the testimony, but he later asked Wolf to get the counselor to fax copies of the documents he examined to the court.

After the prosecutors rested their case, Jendrzey called three witnesses from one family to the stand who contradicted the testimony of the alleged victim. Elizabeth and Sean Gibson said the bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey was brought to the camp by the alleged victim's father, who went missing in August of 2008. He was "not happy" the next day when he found his whiskey missing, they said. "He had a bottle of whiskey that he was very proud of," Elizabeth Gibson said.

Their son Garrett Gibson, who was one of the two teenagers staying up late with Dauben and the alleged victim after everyone else went to bed, claimed Dauben was drinking beer. The former blogger, who was 26 at the time, did not give anyone liquor, and that the alleged victim stole the bottle from his father. Gibson said he was drinking wine, and that the alleged victim was the only one drinking whiskey.

Jendrzey also called Dauben's mother, Cheri Hackler Dauben, to the witness stand, and she testified that the phrase, "I hear a shower calling my name" is one that Dauben frequently uses to end phone calls and get off of computer chats. The former blogger developed a habit of turning on the shower and letting it run for the water to get hot while he did other things, she said.

Dauben's mother said she actually coined the phrase, telling Dauben, "I hear a shower calling your name," when she observed the water running with no one in the shower. "It was annoying to me," she said. "It was something that actually drove me crazy."

Under cross examination by the prosecution, Dauben's mother said that she wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her son, but that she wouldn't be there supporting him if she believed he was guilty of the crime with which he is charged.

The trial, which started on Jan. 7, will continue tomorrow. If Dauben takes the stand to testify in his own defense, it will be at that time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Child sexual assault trial reveals mysterious disappearance

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- A mystery surfaced during the first day of testimony in former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joseph G. Dauben's trial on sexual assault of a child charges in Navarro County.

The mother of the child -- who was three months shy of his 15th birthday when an adult male allegedly engaged in sex with him in a park shower at Navarro Mills Lake during a church camping trip in 2007 -- testified in Judge James Lagomarsino's 13th District Court on Jan. 8 that her ex-husband vanished a year later after learning about the teenager's claims of being molested during the outing.

"He disappeared," said the mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the alleged victim.  "He hasn't been heard from since."

Investigators preparing for the Navarro County trial reportedly were unable to locate the man who has now been missing for four and one-half years.

The mother said the last time she heard from her ex-husband, whom she divorced in 2001 after 15 years of marriage, was in August of 2008 soon after he told her that he had filed a complaint with the FBI in Tennessee where he was living about his son's claim.

"He told me not to do anything about it because he had taken care of it," said the mother, who noted she had fought a long bitter battle with her husband for her two adolescent sons and had just gained primary custody of them when she learned about the alleged assault.

The mother said that although she had just gained primary custody in March 2008 and had managed to limit her ex-husband to supervised visits with her two sons, she allowed them to travel to Tennessee  in the summer of 2008 to go on a church mission to Mexico. The older son, who is now 20, told a female friend of his during the bus trip to Mexico about his alleged secret, and she in turn told the youth pastor leading the group about it.

James Buerlein, the youth pastor who is now a chiropractic student in Georgia, testified to the jury of six men and six women hearing Dauben's case that he asked the alleged victim about the friend's concern. The teenager reluctantly confirmed it happened, he said.

"He was very hesitant," the former pastor said. "He seemed ashamed. He avoided eye contact."

The youth's mother said she waited for several months before she decided to check on what she thought was an ongoing investigation into the alleged sexual assault of her son by calling the FBI. The investigator she reached told her a complaint had never been filed, she said.

Her ex-husband was missing so she began calling law enforcement agencies in Texas in about January of 2009 to file her own complaint, the mother said. Despite her numerous calls to different agencies over several months nothing happened until she made contact in the summer of 2009 with Texas Ranger Jason Bobo, who worked in the Northeast Texas office in Waxahachie in Ellis County, she said.

Bobo testified that he took a statement from the mother in December 2010, and that he met with the mother and her son months later in July 2011 to launch an investigation. The Texas Ranger said he also referred the mother to the Navarro County Sheriff's Department to file an initial complaint and called the sheriff's office to tell them he could help.

The youth identified Dauben during an interview at the Gingerbread House child advocacy center in Waxahachie as the adult who assaulted him, Bobo said. He also picked Dauben out in a photo line-up, the Texas Ranger said.

Bobo testified that when he interviewed Dauben about the youth's claims of sexual assault that the former blogger admitted drinking alcohol with the teenager, but he denied any other inappropriate activity occurred.

Bobo said a My Space message he found on the youth's computer from Dauben concerned him because it mentioned the two of them getting together later and  that there was a reference to a shower waiting for Dauben. The Texas Ranger said he viewed it as inappropriate for Dauben to be using social media to contact a teenager.

Prosecutors for Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson also called the alleged victim's younger brother, who is now 16, to the stand to testify about the activities at the church camping trip attended by his father, his stepmother and his older brother. The younger brother said he spied on his older brother and saw him spending time with Dauben and two other teenagers.

The next day the older brother acted odd, his younger brother said. "He was disrespectful and off-putting," the youth said. "It seemed more like he wanted to be alone."

The mother testified she also had noticed her older son acting peculiar about that time."He didn't talk," the mother said. "He was very withdrawn. Nothing made him happy."

She testified that from 2001 until 2008 when she gained full custody of her sons that they only stayed with her a few nights each year because her husband would not allow them to spend longer amounts of time. She described her ex-husband as irresponsible but successful in keeping her away from her sons "because he had more money."

She noted that when her sons lived with her husband they moved frequently, and that they alternated between home schooling and attending public schools.

Both of her sons now live with her in Dallas, the mother said. Her older son is expected to testify about the alleged sexual assault on him when the trial resumes Jan. 9.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Former Ellis County Observer blog publisher's trial on sexual assault charges starts; court seats jury

By David Webb

CORSICANA, TX -- Navarro County's 13th District Court succeeded today, Jan. 7,  in seating a jury to hear former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joesph G. Dauben's trial on sexual assault of a child charges.

Dauben's case will be heard by a jury of 12 that includes a mix of men and women and three African-Americans.

The court failed Oct. 29, 2012, to seat a jury to hear the case against Dauben, 31, whom prosecutors allege assaulted a 15-year-old male teenager in 2007 during a church camping trip. Judge James Lagomarsino declared a mistrial when only five jurors out of a pool of 62 got approved to hear the case.

After the mistrial, Judge Lagomarsino wrote a letter to the editor published in the Corsicana Daily Sun, urging county residents to show up when they received a jury summons. The county's district clerk reportedly also refined its jury summons mailing system afterwards to eliminate names on summons previously returned as undeliverable.

More than double the number of jurors reported for jury service today with the pool numbering 141. The selection process took all day, finishing at 7:30 p.m. The questions asked of the jury included if they could conceive of returning an acquittal if Dauben chose not to testify and if they could consider probation if they returned a conviction.

Dauben, who was arraigned in December 2011 on the charges of molestation four years after the alleged incident following a Texas Rangers investigation, is currently free on $50,000 bond. The former blogger received permission from the judge to not wear the ankle monitor mandated by his bond conditions while he is in the presence of the jury.

Dauben, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges and rejected all plea bargain offers from the prosecution, said in previous interviews no inappropriate contact occurred between him and the teenager during the camping trip. The teenager, who is now 20, alleged that Dauben touched him inappropriately and engaged with him in oral and anal sex.

Dauben's arrest was widely reported by East Texas newspapers, WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas and magazines and newspapers in Dallas. The blogger, who occasionally also published small newspapers in Dallas suburbs, gained a high profile from media coverage about his gonzo style of journalism that drew widespread criticism and charges of unfairness and recklessness.

In November 2012, an Ellis County jury found Dauben guilty of "fraudulent use of identifying information" in connection with a story the blogger published about a Red Oak man whose wife accused him of molesting their child. The story included the man's name, address, phone number, place of employment and a statement that he should be killed if the allegation was true, leading prosecutors to charge Dauben with violation of a law that typically is used for identity theft.

The Ellis County conviction, which called for a sentence of five-years' probation in lieu of one year in prison and a fine of $2,400, is under appeal.

Dauben's arrest on the sexual assault charge followed a raid on his home office in the summer of 2011 related to the complaint filed by the Red Oak man. Red Oak Police assisted by Henderson County officials seized all of his computer equipment and files during the raid on the home he shared with his grandmother on Cedar Creek Lake.

His indictment on the Ellis County charge occurred while he was jailed in Navarro County. Dauben spent several months in jail before his bond was reduced from $200,000 to $50,000. Then he was jailed  again last year when an Ellis County judge found that he had violated the terms of his release on bond by indirect access to the Internet.

Dauben was most recently released from jail on bond Dec. 24.

The criminal charges in Navarro County and Ellis County mark the second time for Dauben to wind up on the wrong side of the law. In 2009 he spent 12 days in jail after he published a photograph of a police officer. The charges later were dropped, and he received a $10,000 settlement from the City of Combine after he filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful arrest.