Eric Floyd, 36, was found not guilty of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter when the girl was 14 and 15 years old.
A Palm Coast man was found not guilty Aug. 23 on charges of rape and molestation of a minor.
A Flagler County jury of six residents reached its verdict after about three and a half hours of deliberation the afternoon of Aug. 23.
Defendant Eric Floyd, who goes by the nickname “Cobi,” was arrested by Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies in the spring of 2015 on charges of molesting his then-stepdaughter, who was 14-15 years old at the time.
He was charged with three counts of sexual battery of a minor and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation.
Floyd, after some deliberation, decided not to testify during the two-day trial, which hinged entirely on testimony and on the content of a law enforcement-recorded phone call between the alleged victim and Floyd, as well as some text messages exchanged between the two.
According to police reports and testimony from the alleged victim and her mother during her trial, Floyd approached the stepdaughter and asked her if she saw him as “something more” than a stepfather, told her he saw her as something more than a stepdaughter, and then initiated a sexual relationship with her.
“This was initiated by the defendant back sometime in 2011, when he told her he wanted more of a relationship,” Assistant State Attorney John LeDonne told the court Aug. 22. “He asked to see her breasts, and she obliged because he was her stepfather. … She thought this was normal; he told her it was normal.”
The alleged victim's' first kist was by Floyd, she said. In other instances, according to the prosecution, Floyd touched the teen's breast, had her perform a sex act on him and performed various sexual acts on her.
The prosecution detailed four of those incidents in court.
In one instance, after Floyd had been unable to come on a trip with the family in which the alleged victim said he'd planned to have her "lose my virginity to him" in a hotel room, he sent her a photo of his own slit wrist, saying he'd attempted suicide because he couldn't stand being away from her. That photo was shown to the jury.
Defense attorney William Bookhammer called the sexual allegations “a classic case of he said, she said," and told the court that the teen had had some acting training in high school, and that she'd feuded with Floyd in the past, implying that she'd fabricated the case because she was angry at Floyd. He told the jury that the teen's father, who died before she came forward, had disapproved of Floyd and expressed that disapproval to the alleged victim and her sisters.
It wasn’t until two years after Floyd had broken up with the teen's mother that she decided to come forward and speak of the abuse, telling her mother and a school guidance counselor.
“At first I didn’t know that it was abuse, he made it seem like it was normal; he told me that it was normal that stepdaughters do this with their stepdads,” the girl told the court Aug. 22.
She told her mother after the mother spoke with the teen and her sisters about a news article the mother had read on controlling and sexually abusive behavior. There were four children in the household: the alleged victim, and her three sisters.
After the mother spoke with the children about the news article, “A couple of hours later, when I was getting ready for bed, there was a knock on the door, and it was (the alleged victim), and she was hysterical,” the mother said. “And she told me that something had happened, and that it was with Cobi. … She could barely speak; she could barely breathe.”
The mother didn’t contact any authorities that night: She wanted to check with her three other daughters to make sure they had not also been abused, and decided that the best time to do what would be after they returned home from school the next day; she did not want to wake them that night, or upset them in the morning right before they left for school.
But the alleged victim spoke to her guidance counselor the next day at school, and the guidance counselor, as a state mandated reporter, contacted the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
A detective on the case had the alleged victim conduct a "controlled call" — one surveilled and monitored by law enforcement — with Floyd. The recording, about 30 minutes long, was played for the jury.
The alleged victim had not spoken to Floyd for two years when she made the phone call; her mother, after the breakup, had told Floyd not to contact the children.
When he picked up the phone, Floyd's first reaction was skepticism about the teen's identity: "I’m a little skeptical about who this may or may not be," he said, before asking the teen to name her pets so that he could verify who she was.
The teen told him that she missed him and had a new boyfriend, and that she needed "closure" with Floyd.
"It’s really hard that I can’t be honest and tell them who my first kiss is," she said.
"There was only one person that was into that in that situation, and that was me," Floyd replied.
"Into what?" the teen said.
"The situation you just described," Floyd replied. "There was no romanticism to it."
"But it felt like it," the teen said.
The teen told Floyd that she was preparing to go to senior prom with her boyfriend, but that she missed Floyd and wished she could have gone with him.
"You’re going to be 18 in like two months," he replied. "You’re going be 18, and you’re going to be able to do whatever you want to do. … Anything that happened between you and I was not trivial, not to me … it meant something to me on a very deep level, that no one has been able to replicate."
"For the longest time, I didn’t know if it was all just a game or if you really cared," the teen said.
Floyd then asked the teen if she was alone. She said yes. He asked her if she was telling the truth, and she said yes again.
She asked him if there was "any chance that when I’m 18, we could start over."
He asked her what she meant by "start over."
"Like try for an 'us,' without the complication of mom and everything," she said.
"I would not be opposed to that, no," Floyd replied.
There were no expert witnesses called in the case: The only witnesses called were the alleged victim; her mother; the school guidance counselor, who told the court the girl was distressed when she reported the crime; and a friend of the family who was called by the defense to say he'd never seen any signs that Floyd was sexually abusing the girl. There was no physical evidence provided to support any of the specific alleged instances of abuse.
The jury was not given records of the law enforcement-surveilled text message conversations between the alleged victim and Floyd.
In one instance, the alleged victim asked Floyd by text how, if they resumed a sexual relationship, they would "break the news when I am 18? I mean if mom finds out we had a sexual relationship a few years ago." The alleged victim suggested they "pass if off as something that developed recently."
Floyd replied, "Well, it would be something that developed recently. So that's the way to go in my opinion."
The jury listened to the controlled call again in its entirety before delivering its verdict.
The alleged victim immediately broke down sobbing and had to be consoled after the court read the verdict shortly before 5 p.m., finding Floyd not guilty of each of the four charges against him.