COURT ORDER: Pinetown man sentenced to 53 years in prison

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, November 22, 2014

Andy Koonce

Andy Koonce

A Pinetown Iraq war veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart medal was sentenced Friday to over 50 years in prison.

Wednesday, a Beaufort County jury returned guilty verdicts for Andy Keith Koonce II, convicting the 29-year-old man of statutory rape, attempted statutory rape, kidnapping and indecent liberties with a child. Friday, Superior Court Judge Russell Duke Jr. sentenced Koonce to 53 years in prison for the crimes.

After a three-day trial, the jury took less than an hour to return its verdict for a case detailing events that took place in 2009 and led to Koonce’s arrest a year later. Koonce maintains his innocence, as evidenced by the fact he chose to take his case to trial rather than make a plea with the state and testified in his own defense, Koonce’s attorney, Rick Griffin, said at the sentencing hearing Friday.

“My client’s never had any criminal history,” Griffin said. “Never even had a speeding ticket in his entire life.”

Griffin described Koonce as a model citizen, with good character and reputation; a man who had served his country and had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Army — wounded in Iraq in 2006, discharged in 2011 with 100-percent disability. Koonce had completed Basic Law Enforcement Training at Beaufort County Community College when the allegations of sexual abuse came to light in 2010, after which he began working toward a career in personal training, Griffin said.

Earlier in the week, Griffin made the argument that from the time of his arrest, Koonce denied the allegations, though investigators with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office made no record of the denial. During closing arguments, the defense attorney told the jury that the claims of sexual abuse were the product of retribution — an ex-girlfriend made up the rumors — and pointed out the many inconsistencies between the victims’ original statements to law enforcement and their testimony in court.

“Most of you have children. We know they don’t always tell the truth,” Griffin told the jury. “We recognize there may be some untruths told. Oftentimes, we are forgiving for that and we should be. But not in a trial when someone’s been charged with statutory rape. Not in a trial where it’s been alleged that someone has raped a child.”

However, the prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorney Tom Anglim, painted a different picture of the events that took place between February and November of 2009, one in which a 24-year-old man systematically took advantage of his 14-year-old sister’s friends when they visited the Koonce home in Pinetown. Three young women, now 19 years old, gave emotional testimony about their experiences with Koonce when they were 14 years old. Anglim pointed out the many consistencies in their testimony: the parents were not at home at the time of each incident; the girls had come to spend the night at the house, each on separate occasions; the methods by which Koonce determined to get each girl alone — all pointed to a man who deliberately isolated the young women in order to have sex with them.

“There’s not enough Gorilla Glue, tape, in the world that can put together the innocence that was taken,” Anglim told the court during closing arguments.

After the verdict was returned Wednesday, Griffin, on behalf of Koonce, requested that the court poll the jury, a process that involves asking if each individual juror had, indeed, returned a guilty verdict for all charges — an effort to ensure verdicts are the determination of the entire jury.

One at a time, Duke called each jury member by name, read aloud to them the list of charges against Koonce and asked if the guilty verdict returned was his or her personal verdict, and if it remained his or her verdict. The 12 jurors confirmed the verdicts on all charges.

Duke issued three sentences to be served consecutively — 240–297 months for the first statutory rape charge, 240–297 months for the consolidated charges of a second statutory rape and indecent liberties with a child, and 157–198 months for attempted statutory rape — in addition to a permanent no contact order between he and the victims and assignment to lifetime electronic monitoring. Duke arrested judgment on three charges of kidnapping.

Griffin informed the court that the case would be appealed.