‘I don’t trust the system at this point’: Survivors feel powerless after rapist was never sent to adult prison

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Written by Felicia Jordan, WCPO digital producer and Larry Seward, WCPO reporter

Three women who were raped as teenagers said they think Kentucky courts are helping the now 19-year-old convicted rapist.

According to court documents, Joseph Eubank was never transferred from juvenile prison to an adult prison when he should have been.

Eubank, who was in eighth grade when he was first accused of committing a sex crime, was charged as an adult in 2019; Prosecutors said the attacks happened when Eubank was between the ages of 14 and 16. He was 17 in 2020 when he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with the possibility of parole after 8 1/2 years.

Kentucky statute dictates Eubank should have faced another sentencing hearing after he turned 18, after which he would have been transferred from the Department of Juvenile Justice to an adult facility under the Department of Corrections. To avoid dragging teenage victims through an additional, re-traumatizing hearing, the defense and prosecution agreed that the hearing would be waived, under the condition that Eubank was transferred to an adult facility when he reached 18 years and 5 months old.

Eubank turned 18 on September 30, 2020, and still remains in a juvenile facility, according to court documents.

While the now-retired judge told victims they would never have to return to court for the same case, they came back in tears during a motion hearing Monday.

“I walked out of the courtroom and I cried,” one victim said.

The three victims, whose names and faces WCPO will not release, said they felt powerless, believing the courts are not on their side.

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“I don’t trust the system at this point,” another victim said. “It seems as if they’re buying him time in the juvenile facility and I don’t think that’s right or OK at all.”

“It felt like they were more interested in what was in his best interests instead of what was best for the community and what was best for the victims involved,” a third victim said. “It feels like we were just kind of disregarded — that our feelings weren’t valid in this situation.”

Rob Sanders, Kenton County prosecutor, said he wasn’t aware Eubank was still in a juvenile facility until a lawsuit was filed against the DJJ by Eubank’s lawyers. That lawsuit, filed with the Franklin County courts just before Eubank would have reached 18 years and 5 months of age, sought to halt Eubank’s transfer to an adult prison.

The court granted the request, in part, with the stipulation that the Department of Juvenile Justice must determine whether they plan to keep custody of him until he’s 21 or transfer him to an adult facility. In Kentucky, juvenile offenders do not have to be transferred to an adult prison until they reach the age of 21.

Since that ruling was issued in April 2021, nothing further has happened and Eubank has remained in a juvenile facility while the case is still pending. Sanders argued that the decision should not be up to the DJJ, because the order from Kenton County court to transfer him when he turned 18 years, 5 months old came first.

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“They just haven’t followed the law,” said Sanders. “Now, if they want to follow the law and consult the Department of Corrections after he’s at the Department of Corrections facility, if that’s what this administration wants to do is intervene on the behalf of a convicted rapist serving a 25-year sentence, then they can… but they still have to follow the law.”

Officials with the DJJ told the judge Eubank was getting education and receiving counseling, which is why he was never transferred as scheduled. The DJJ, officials said, cannot be forced to transfer an inmate until they reach age 21; They claimed it was up to DJJ officials when Eubank was transferred prior to that time.

Sanders disagreed.

“They can’t just jump to the conclusion they want just because this defendant happens to have the means to sue the Department of Juvenile Justice and, in essence, bully his way into staying in a juvenile facility,” he said.

The judge also pointed out Eubank was only supposed to be provided the education he needed to receive his high school diploma. Eubank was enrolled at Covington Catholic High School when charges were leveled against him.

Court will reconvene after the DJJ has had three weeks to provide a rebuttal to Sanders’ motions and Sanders has had one additional week to reply to their rebuttal. In the meantime, Eubank will remain in the juvenile facility.

Until he’s in adult prison, Sanders said the system is breaking promises survivors need to move forward.

In a statement, Eubank’s attorney Chase Cunningham said: “The Department of Juvenile Justice has decided, in compliance with statutory law and the Franklin Circuit Court’s civil order, to retain custody of Joseph. We’re confident that the Kenton Circuit Court will recognize the lawfulness of that decision.”

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This story originally appeared on WCPO.com.

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