FORT WORTH -- A 23-year-old man who threatened to kill State District Judge Elizabeth Berry last week was convicted Wednesday of raping a longtime family friend and threatening to kill her while brandishing a baseball bat and a kitchen knife.
A Tarrant County jury deliberated for 38 minutes before finding Jeremy Dontae Craft guilty of the May 29, 2008 aggravated sexual assault of a 20-year-old woman. Her mother mother took him in a few days before the attack because he had no place else to stay.
Craft, who said Tuesday that he wanted to testify, changed his mind Wednesday morning after he was told by his attorney, Ronald Couch, and retired visiting Judge Phillip Vick that his testimony would subject him to cross-examination by prosecutors, who would be allowed to tell jurors about of his previous criminal convictions and other bad acts.
Couch also told him his testimony could affect his appeal.
Vick was appointed to try the case in Criminal District Court No. 3 after Craft threatened to kill Berry, her family, Couch and eight sheriff’s deputies during in a pretrial hearing. On Tuesday, Vick banished Craft, who was wearing leg restraints and a shock belt in the courtroom, after Craft broke a smoke detector, flooded his holding cell and shouted obscene remarks to prosecutor Christy Jack and the judge.
There were no courtroom outbursts from Craft Wednesday, either during closing arguments or when the jury delivered the verdict.
After the verdict, prosecutors put on evidence of Craft’s prior convictions. They also put on a 26-year-old man who testified that Craft threatened to kill him and forced him to perform oral sex while the two were in a Texas Youth Commision facility in 2000.
Craft was about 13 at that time.
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