Tortoise torture suspect faces sex charges

By Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 11:53:49 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2014 09:10:00 AM EDT

A Clay County teen who made national news for her part in the recorded torture and killing of a tortoise is now facing new charges of committing a sex crime.
A local defense attorney is questioning the publicity the new case is receiving.

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -

An 18-year-old girl arrested earlier this month on animal abuse charges after a video appeared to show her and a younger girl torturing a tortoise was back in court Thursday facing a judge on a new charge: lewd and lascivious battery on a younger child.

According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office arrest report, Jennifer Greene "made friends" with a younger boy and then had sexual contact with him. The incident allegedly occurred in June, seven days before Greene turned 18.

The report says the younger victim and Greene began playing hide-and-seek in a backyard. The victim told deputies he initiated the sexual activity and she complied.

During her first-appearance before a judge on the lewd and lascivious charge, a public defender was assigned to her case.

Greene was already facing a felony cruelty to animals, a third-degree felony, and taking, harassing, harming or killing a gopher tortoise, a second-degree misdemeanor.

Earlier in the month, Greene and Danielle Dionne, 15, posted a video showing the tortoise being lit on fire, thrown on the concrete and being stomped on until it died. The video went viral on Facebook.

News4Jax reached out to local attorney Gene Nichols, who is not affiliated with the case, but gave some insight into the new charges against Greene. Nichols told News4Jax that he was surprised that we're hearing so much about the charges because the incident happened before she was a legal adult.

"It's unusual that they're releasing any information about it. Even though we now know she's an adult for purposes of criminal charge, this incident allegedly happened while she was a minor," said Nichols. "As of now, unless the State Attorney's Office has direct filed her, she should be charged as a minor. Therefore I'm surprised that anybody is releasing any information on this whatsoever."

"All of the information released is public record," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Mary Justino said in a statement. "We routinely release information about juveniles arrested on felony charges when it is requested by the media -- there is no age criteria by law when there is a felony arrest and hasn't been since the statute regarding this changed in October of 1994. It is a common misconception that this information is prohibited from release."

News4Jax's Scott Johnson went to the address listed for Greene's parents in Orange Park, but no one was home. Neighbors in the area didn't want to go on camera, but said Greene was adopted from another country and the arrest report lists her place of birth as Romania.

On Sunday, News4Jax spoke with Jeff Econom, who said he counseled Greene at a home for troubled teens. Econom said Green came from a Romanian orphanage and said she would do just about anything to fit in.

"She's just looking to please others and be friends. She's just looking for a friend and whatever it takes to be that friend. I hate to say it, it's almost borderline desperate for a friend," Econom said Sunday.

The arrest report didn't list the age of the boy involved in the alleged incident, but Nichols said his age could play a role in how the court deals with Green's lewd and lascivious battery charge. If the person is 16 or over the charges may not be as severe, but if it's a child younger than that, the punishment could be more harsh.

"There are certain statutes, Romeo and Juliet statutes apply when two teenage people commit an act that they shouldn't be committing. We know the penalties become more severe when you are older if the victim is younger," said Nichols.

The arrest report also said Green would have a juvenile detention hearing within the next 24 hours, and since it's being handled in Juvenile Court, News4Jax will likely not get any details as to what happens in court Thursday.

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