Aug. 21--WALLA WALLA -- A man with apparent mental health issues has been convicted of a felony charge for exposing himself on a Valley Transit bus last spring.
Following testimony at a one-day trial Tuesday, a Walla Walla County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found Demetrius A. Graves guilty of indecent exposure with sexual motivation.
The eight-man, four-woman panel deliberated a total of about two hours late Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before reaching its unanimous verdict.
Graves, 35, faces up to two years in prison when he's sentenced after a presentence investigation is completed, according to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden. Meanwhile Graves is incarcerated in the County Jail.
He was seen about 9 a.m. April 30 masturbating while on the bus that contained about 15-20 passengers.
Continually and vigorously rocking back and forth in his chair during his trial, Graves testified he didn't know what he was doing on the bus.
Golden told the Union-Bulletin following the verdict he was concerned the jury might acquit Graves amid some national sentiment that too many people with mental issues are locked up rather than treated.
"It's clear he has (an undiagnosed) mental health problem, but it didn't rise to a legal defense," Golden said.
Graves underwent a mental evaluation a few weeks ago and was found competent to stand trial in that he understood the charge against him and was able to assist his court-appointed attorney, Jerry Makus.
Makus had no comment after the verdict other than to say he's sure Graves will appeal.
It's the third instance in which Graves was accused of exposing himself in the community.
He pleaded guilty in Walla Walla County District Court in April to a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure in a previous act, therefore this conviction is a felony.
He also fondled himself at a District Court courtroom hearing Feb. 24, officials said.
At this week's trial concerning the bus incident, Makus conceded Graves was exposing himself and masturbating while sitting in a back seat.
Golden showed the jury a surveillance video taken from a camera on the vehicle clearly revealing a man identified as Graves committing the act.
He had boarded about 15 minutes before arriving at Walla Walla Community College, and a 22-year-old student sitting in front and across from Graves witnessed the exposure from the corner of her eye.
"He just continued to do that all the way 'til we got to the college," she told the jury.
She testified she was "a little frightened" and reported to the bus driver as soon as she deboarded that Graves was touching himself.
Led by questions from Makus, Graves -- speaking in a mumbling monotone while rocking -- told the jury he doesn't really know what he was doing.
"I was being chased by spirits and the whole bus was dark," he said from the witness stand.
"I don't really remember anything. It's like I was asleep."
Graves added he was homeless, had been smoking some drugs and wasn't able to take his pills.
Golden, when given the opportunity to cross-examine Graves, had no questions for him.
Although it was clear Graves had been exposing himself on the bus, Makus unsuccessfully maintained his client is not guilty of indecent exposure under state law as defined in instructions given to the jury by Judge John Lohrmann.
Makus emphasized a couple of the instructions in his closing argument Tuesday afternoon.
Telling panel members he was not excusing Graves' conduct on the bus, he said they could not discount Graves' testimony.
Makus contended it had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Graves acted "intentionally" to commit a crime and knew what he was doing would cause "affront or alarm."
But Golden, who earlier told the jury this is "a simple case," countered: "Of course it was intentional. This was an accident?"
"That's not reasonable," Golden said.
Terry McConn can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8319.
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