Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 11, 2013

Dauben found guilty Friday

Sentencing to continue Monday

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — A Navarro County jury found Joseph “Joey” Dauben guilty Friday of three counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency with a child.

Dauben, 31, didn’t react when the jury’s decision came back after two hours of deliberation in the 13th District Court. However, almost immediately began the punishment phase of the trial, and Dauben cried on the witness stand as he described his various activities as publisher of the online newspaper The Ellis County Observer.

Dauben testified that he had investigated sexual abuse allegations at a halfway house in Ellis County, Kevin’s House, and had seen it closed down as a result. He claimed to be investigating a child pornography ring in Ellis County that was connected to three cases of missing children.

He called it the “most evil, evil stuff,” and said: “Nothing’s being done about it.”

Dauben testified that as a publisher he had criticized the Ellis County District Judge and District Attorney for giving child sex offenders probation. Instead, Dauben had urged giving sex offenders an automatic death penalty. He said he’s since had a change of heart.

Under cross examination by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wolf, Dauben said it would be hypocritical of him to ask for probation when he hadn’t been merciful to men in his same position just a year or two ago.

“I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Dauben, pass this witness,” Wolf said smoothly.

When his defense attorney, Ed Jendrzey, asked Dauben if he was asking the jury for probation, Dauben paused for more than two minutes, looking at the floor and pursing his lips before saying that if the jury were to hold him to the same standards to which he had held convicted sex offenders in Ellis County then they would not give him probation.

“If you’d be merciful and give me probation, that’s great,” he said. “If you were to hold me to the same standards as the Ellis County Observer, then no.”

Dauben described one case in which he falsely accused a man of sexually abusing his children based on the word of the man’s estranged wife. In that instance, he was arrested and convicted of the fraudulent use of identifying information in Ellis County.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “I falsely accused a man of the same thing I’m accused of.”

At that time, Dauben was put on probation and told he couldn’t get on the Internet anymore. His probation was revoked when the newspapers continued publishing. Dauben said he didn’t do it, though.

It was unclear Friday evening if Dauben realized the irony of the situation — that he claims to be falsely accused, just as he falsely accused others; that he advocated the death penalty for child predators, but asked for mercy for himself after he was convicted of it; that within half an hour of his conviction, he took the stand and cried as he described his role as sole defender of children.

“I’ve learned I’m not a judge,” he said. “I didn’t have mercy on people. I was not forgiving of people.”

These revelations came to him the second time he went to jail, Dauben said.

Dauben also said he accepted the jury’s decision, but he refused to admit having sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy in 2007 while at a church retreat at Navarro Mills Reservoir, insisting that he was falsely accused. When Wolf asked him if the purpose of probation wasn’t rehabilitation, and wasn’t a necessity of rehab that the person admit guilt, Dauben dithered and finally said yes, adding: “I’m not going to admit to something I didn’t do.”

The punishment phase of the case will continue at 9 a.m. Monday in District Court. Meanwhile, Dauben is semi-free, released, but wearing an electronic ankle monitor.

In closing arguments, both sides pointed out the long delay in the investigation being presented to the district attorney — the incident allegedly happened on Sept. 30, 2007 — as well as the questionability of at least one witness, but the case ultimately came down to which of the two witnesses was more credible — Dauben or his accuser.

Wolf pointed to the different explanations that Dauben had for why the young man would allege sexual assault, including at least two conspiracy theories involving various Ellis County officials.

Meanwhile, Jendrzey highlighted the emotional trauma of the accuser following the boy’s parents’ divorce prior to the alleged incident, along with his unstable home-life and absentee father.

“This is a strange case,” Jendrzey said. “Joey is a political firestarter.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com