MICHIGAN CITY — The prosecutor in a former Michigan City police officer's rape trial argued Tuesday an intellectually disabled woman didn't have the mental capacity to grant consent for sexual activity. The defense attorney disagreed.
Thomas Jackson, 53, of Trail Creek, is charged with four counts of level 3 felony rape for alleged sexual activity early in 2017 with the woman.
The woman, now 25, has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, according to psychological evaluations.
LaPorte County Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Boehm said the woman is employed part-time, earning less than minimum wage. She can barely read and write and must be reminded daily to perform simple tasks.
Boehm said the woman and her parents were at a social gathering when she was introduced to Jackson, who was still on the police force at the time.
"He began earning their trust," Boehm said.
Several months later, Boehm said, the parents granted him permission to take her out for things like coffee, ice cream and walks in the park.
The allegations came to light after an officer approached a van parked at Prairie Meadow Park in Westville at closing time. The officer suspected the occupants were having sex in the van and ordered them to get out.
According to court documents, the officer advised Jackson and the woman to engage in such behavior in a private setting, then sent them on their way. The woman, afraid she might be in trouble, told her mother when she got home about that incident and other sexual encounters with Jackson, who resigned because of the allegations.
Defense attorney Craig Braje argued the woman was not helpless because she had previous instruction from her mother about sex.
"She acted as an adult. She did things as an adult and had an adult lifestyle," Braje said.
He also said the woman has nothing bad to say about Jackson.
Jackson could face three to 16 years on each count if convicted.