EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin turned to Facebook Tuesday in an effort to solicit public support for imposition of a harsh sentence for confessed child molester Jack Perkins III when he faces a Vanderburgh County Circuit Court judge Thursday afternoon.
In a posting on the police department’s official Facebook page Tuesday night, that quickly went viral, Bolin’s message started with “We need your help.” The post gave background information about the case against Perkins and asked people to “please consider coming out and helping us fill the courtroom and surrounding halls this Thursday.”
Perkins, 28, has admitted to abducting and molesting a 9-year-old boy last year.
“This could have been any of our children and should the defense get their wish, he will be out with plenty of life left,” the Facebook post read. “We need your help to make sure this sick man doesn’t happen to drive by another Evansville backyard, grab another innocent child who is merely playing like kids do and inflict his evil upon them.”
Perkins’ attorney, David Lamont, did not return a call from the Courier & Press Wednesday seeking comment regarding the Facebook post.
According to an Evansville Police Department affidavit, Perkins confessed to the January 2012 incident. He reportedly told police that he pulled his car up to children who were playing outside, got out of the vehicle and asked one of the children to get a paper out of his car. When the child, the 9-year-old, went to do so, he shut the door and drove off. Police said Perkins molested the child inside the car near the intersection of Elliott Street and Maxwell Avenue. As the Facebook post noted, the victim was able to escape the vehicle shortly after the attack.
Perkins in March pleaded guilty but mentally ill to child molesting, a class A felony, and criminal confinement. He faces a 20- to 50-year sentence for child molesting and a 6- to 20-year sentence for confinement. Because of the victim’s age, Perkins would have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence on the child molesting charge.
Evansville Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum called the post an unusual step. He said the goal of Bolin’s message was not to incite a crowd to disrupt the court proceedings but instead drum up community support for the young victim and try to send a message to the court that the community wants to ensure that Perkins does not get off with the minimum sentence.
Cullum said officials had removed some responses to the post that they felt weren’t appropriate. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, less than 20 hours after Bolin made the post more than 750 people had “shared” the status, meaning that they had posted it on their own page. Bolin did not return a call from the Courier & Press on Wednesday.
Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann said he supported Bolin’s message, which Hermann said was also posted on the chief’s personal Facebook page. Hermann also said he did not believe the case was compromised by the postings. He noted that Perkins has already pleaded guilty in the case so there’s no potential jury that could be influenced by Bolin’s actions.
“This is a case that the public should be interested in,” Hermann said. “I’m glad that there is attention being called to it. The judge is going to determine the sentence on the merits of the case and whatever criminal history, aggravators and mitigators that the judge finds. I hope that this opens a public dialogue about this type of crime and how to keep your children safe.”
Perkins also faces 10 child-pornography-related charges in U.S. District Court after a grand jury indicted him after officials examined his computer during their investigation into the child molesting incident.
Perkins’ sentencing has been delayed twice, the last time being earlier this month when Lamont told Circuit Court Magistrate Judge Kelli Fink that he needed time to review Perkins’ police statement so he could rebut prosecution allegations about a second alleged victim. According to the police affidavit, during the investigation into the January incident, Perkins reportedly admitted to an additional similar incident involving another child.