James Davis sentenced

James Davis listens to his attorney, Jim Archibald, during his sentencing hearing Monday. Davis was sentenced to three-to-20 years in prison by District Judge Stevan Thompson at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Rigby.

A man who sexually abused two juvenile girls, threatened them with and used violence, and attempted to intimidate their mother was sentenced to prison Monday.

District Judge Stevan Thompson ordered James Gordon Davis, 40, to three to 20 years in prison, and gave him credit for the year-and-a-half he had already served.

Thompson told Davis he thought a longer sentence would have been appropriate, but it was the maximum allowed by the plea agreement. The judge said he accepted the agreement in part because refusing it would have likely resulted in a jury trial, requiring the victims to testify in front of their abuser.

Davis was arrested in June 2018 after the children’s mother contacted law enforcement to report he punched one of her daughters after she refused to get in a shower with him, according to the probable cause affidavit. The victim said she and her sister had also been forced to perform sex acts with Davis and that he had threatened to hurt them if they told anyone.

Additional charges were filed after jail recordings showed he called the victims’ mother from jail in August 2018. Davis told the mother not to talk to law enforcement, the prosecutor, or Child Protective Services. Davis also told the mother to convince her children to “clam up.” He told her multiple times to just not show up for court and to flee the county with the children.

The plea agreement reduced the multitude of felonies Davis faced to two: battery with intent to commit a serious felony and intimidating a witness. He was sentenced to three-to-five years in prison for the latter charge, to run concurrently with his battery sentence.

Thompson said Davis appeared to have succeeded in his attempts to intimidate the victims. The victims and their mother did not want to enter the courtroom for Davis’s sentencing without the assurance they would not be required to testify. Defense Attorney James Archibald attempted to call the mother as a witness but was overruled by the judge.

Archibald called Dan Roberts as a character witness. Roberts had been Davis’s boss for nearly 20 years and has been an advocate for conservative causes in Idaho.

Roberts said he did not believe Davis posed a threat to society or the victims, and that he would support Davis by providing him a job and allowing him to stay in his guest house.

“I think it would be a travesty to put him behind bars,” Roberts said.

Roberts described a time when he convinced Davis not to conduct business on Sundays as a religious choice. He said that, by coincidence, Roberts’s own father needed roadside assistance the next Sunday and that Davis assisted him free of charge.

Roberts told Special Prosecutor John Dewey during cross-examination that he “assumed that maybe the worst is absolutely true” regarding the charges against Davis. He admitted he had not seen the psychosexual evaluation that concluded Davis was a high risk to reoffend. When Dewey asked what qualified Roberts to say what risk Davis posed to the community, Roberts said he was a parent and an expert on liberty.

Archibald also called a juvenile who testified that he believed Davis should be placed on probation. When questioned by Dewey, however, the juvenile admitted he had witnessed Davis physically abuse both victims and their mother.

Dewey argued for a prison sentence over probation, describing the sexual abuse committed and the attempts to talk the victims out of testifying. He also cited statements by the victim’s mother that Davis would attempt to abuse the victims if he were released.

Dewey cited the psychosexual evaluation, which determined Davis was a high risk to reoffend in part because he refused to speak about the crimes for which he was charged. According to Dewey, the report described Davis as callous and manipulative.

Archibald argued for probation, pointing out Davis had already spent more than a year in jail. He argued the psychosexual evaluation’s determination was unfair because it found him to be a higher risk for refusing to discuss his charges, despite the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“He has been punished,” Archibald said. “He has spent time in jail. He has been humiliated, and he’s had his rights taken away.”

Davis apologized to the victims in his statement to the court. He asked for probation, framing it as him taking responsibility for himself rather than requiring taxpayers to pay for his incarceration.

Thompson told Davis the sexual abuse of children was too serious a crime for probation.

“I think you would recognize yourself that placing you on probation would lessen the seriousness of the crime,” Thompson said.

After he is released from prison, Davis will be required to register as a sex offender.