28-year sentence given in statutory rape casePublished 8:17pm Monday, March 4, 2013
A Beaufort County jury found a Washington man guilty of statutory rape last week, a conviction that carries a hefty prison sentence.
In the wake of the guilty verdict, Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr. sentenced Robert Christopher Figgs, 31, to 28 to 34 years in the N.C. Department of Correction system.
“Statutory rape does not imply forcible rape — it can be consensual sexual intercourse between a victim and a suspect, but in North Carolina, age 16 is the legal age for a consenting adult,” said Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the Beaufort County sheriff’s Office. “If the suspect is six or more years older (than the victim), it is a more serious offense.”
“At the time of the offenses, the defendant was 28 years old and his victim was only 13,” wrote District Attorney Seth Edwards in an email.
It was in August 2010 that sheriff’s office got a report that a sexual assault of a minor by an older man had happened at a home on N.C. Highway 102 West, Chocowinity.
According to Watson, the victim was a relative of Figgs’ girlfriend at the time, but it was the victim’s parent who reported the crime to authorities. Figgs was charged in November of the following year.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every state has laws that prohibit sex with a minor, with varying ages of consent and punishment for the crime. In North Carolina, if a perpetrator of statutory rape is more than six years older than the victim, it is considered a Class B.1 felony, on par with first-degree rape and possession and/or use of weapons of mass destruction.
In 2012, the sheriff’s office received four reports of statutory rape. Watson said the reports come from a variety of sources: parents, Department of Social Services and Crime Stoppers tips.