Former Frankfort Independent Schools bus driver and girls’ softball coach William “Blake” Jackson, 37, was sentenced by Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to 30 years in prison on Friday for sexually abusing his then-seven-year-old foster daughter (whom he later adopted along with his ex-wife).
The sentence covers two separate charges: first-degree rape (victim under 12 years of age) and sodomy (victim under the age of 12), both Class A felonies. At his trial in late May, the jury recommended that the charges be served concurrently instead of consecutively, and Wingate sentenced in accordance with their recommendation.
Jackson will be eligible for parole after 20 years.
Before sentencing was handed down, both sides were able to make arguments for or against the recommended sentence. Jackson’s counsel, Daniel L. Thompson, told the court that because his client’s presentence investigation (PSI) report showed him to be at a low risk to reoffend and he had no prior criminal history “other than this one window” he “has led a pretty good life.”
“I understand the court has the authority to impose a sentence on Mr. Jackson, but we request leniency.”
Thompson then spoke of several letters that were submitted to the judge prior to Friday’s sentencing in support of Jackson.
During his statement on behalf of the prosecution, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Zachary Becker was joined at the stand by Jackson’s victim, and spoke of attending the sentencing of Charles Crawford on federal child pornography charges last Friday by U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.
Becker is currently overseeing the prosecution of Crawford in Franklin Circuit Court on concurrent sex abuse charges.
“During the course of that sentencing, there were some things Judge Van Tatenhove said that really stuck out to me that are pertinent to what we are discussing here today. First, we argue in this courtroom that this is an inexplicable harm that is done to a child who is sexually abused — more specifically to a child who is sexually abused by those who they most trust. And we, as a community, trust them to do so.
“These victims will bear and have to tend to these wounds inflicted upon them for the rest of their lives. And not just wounds of the flesh, but of the soul and of the heart. It is not a guarantee that a victim will live a full and happy life. It is my hope that this trial and sentence today will leave [the victim] with some closure. To let her know that she will be believed, rather than continue to be called a liar, someone who should be ashamed and blamed. That she is someone who should be loved, and not just the victim of a grown man’s lust.”
Becker also echoed Van Tatenhove’s belief that the argument that a low chance of recidivism by a single offender doesn’t automatically guarantee leniency, and that the recidivism of every single child sexual offender should be taken into consideration when it comes to sentencing.
“Let’s think back to that trial,” Becker continued. “Never once was there an apology, never once any remorse for what he did to her. Not from him, not from his mother, not from his stepmother, not from his father. Just spite and blame for this now-11-year-old girl.
“Fast forward to today. Your Honor has received all these letters of support. Again, not one word of apology. Not one word of remorse. Only “poor Blake Jackson.”
In a quote directly taken from Jackson’s Comprehensive Sex Offender Presentence Evaluation (CSOPE), Becker read that “Mr. Jackson said he was accused of something that didn’t happen. When asked why he believed the victim made up the allegations, he said that ‘there could be a number of reasons.’
“No apology, no remorse.”
Becker also stated that it was his understanding that there was already a push by Jackson’s supporters to secure a pardon from Gov. Andy Beshear, noting that some of the letters included a “carbon copy” or “CC” note referencing him.
Becker gestured to Jackson, stating that he stood “over there, convicted of some of the most serious offenses on our books — equal to murder.”
He then lauded the Lori Denton, the Second Street School counselor who first learned of the abuse from the victim, and aided in police investigations into the matter, saying that “had it not been for the positive impact she had on [the victim’s] life, [the victim] never would have come forward.”
He also congratulated the victim for her strength in testifying at Jackson’s trial.
“Myself personally, this county, and the Commonwealth as a whole owe her a deep debt of gratitude,” Becker said. “Because in the end, without her he would still be driving busloads of children to and from Second Street School. Our children, our grandchildren. He would still be coaching girls’ softball and nobody would be the wiser. Because of [the victim], innumerable children in this community are safer.
“Each charge deserves its own distinct and separate sentence,” Becker argued, urging the judge to set the sentences to run consecutively.
“This would be the appropriate sentence to best ensure permanent protection for the public from this defendant, and, most importantly, act as the greatest deterrent that we in this courtroom can do to provide that other perpetrators do not commit such offenses against our children. For if they do, they will not see the light of day.”
After considering the arguments from both counsels, Wingate sentenced Jackson in accordance with the jury’s recommendation to 30 years in prison on each of the two Class A felonies, to be served concurrently for a total of 30 years. He is required to enter a sex offender treatment program while in prison and to register as a lifetime sex offender on the national registry. He was also ordered to surrender his DNA to the national offender database and pay $10,000 in restitution to cover the fee for the court-appointed guardian ad litem.
Should Jackson be paroled after serving 85% of his sentence or upon his release, he would be required to register for five years of post-incarceration supervision.
Thompson then filed a motion for return of Jackson’s property, which Wingate granted, and then announced his intention to file an appeal of the conviction, but under the legal representation of the Department for Public Advocacy.
Frankfort Police Office detective Guss Curtis, the officer who arrested Jackson, said after the sentencing, “The biggest thing about this case is that it sends a positive message to victims, victims’ families, and citizens that we take this kind of crime very seriously.
“For the next 30 years, our community doesn’t have to worry about a bus driver, coach and former National Guardsman preying on their children.”
Curtis also stressed the importance of advocating for victims in this kind of case.
“As a community, we are no longer going to discount the statements of a child. We are taught from an early age that we can trust a parent. But that is only until a negative disclosure, then a child is treated as a doormat. We are here. We believe you, and we will listen. We are going to fight for you, and we are going to find the solution that is the best for the victim,” he added.
“Today, the community gave him his punishment,” Curtis continued. “This sends the message that child abuse will not be tolerated. The citizens made a fair, firm decision to revoke Jackson’s liberties for the next 30 years.”