The morning his trial was due to start April 23, Jerald Medders, a 53-year-old Palm Coast man charged with statutory rape and child molestation, agreed to a plea deal: He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with credit for time served, to be followed by 15 years of sex offender probation and designation as a sex offender.
The alternative was a trial that would have exposed him to a minimum of 30 years in prison if he lost. The prosecution’s evidence included audio recordings in which Medders — speaking with the victim while law enforcement recorded their conversation — discussed having engaged in sexual activity with her.
Medders’ attorney, Michael Lambert, said after court was adjourned that Medders had decided the night before not to proceed, and instead to accept the plea deal that had been offered by Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark.
The victim, who is 18 and was 16 when she reported the crimes, delivered a statement after Medders’ sentencing by Judge Terrence Perkins.
“To befriend my family to victimize me is probably one of the most sinister things a human being can do to another,” she said. “You stole my innocence as a child. During my abuse, I was made to feel less than a human being, dirty, and at times I even questioned if life was worth living. ... I would like to say that I’m no longer a victim. I’m a survivor. ... I’m still working on healing, and believe in God first and foremost. He is our maker and decides our fate. I want you to know that I forgive you for what you’ve done to me, and will let God be the judge of your fate. ... Despite what I’ve been through, I believe that there are good people in this world. If I was used by God as a vessel to liberate other victimized and troubled souls, then I have served my purpose on this earth. To all victims who have been through what I’ve been though, I would like to say: Speak your truth, let your voices me heard, and remember, you are no longer a victim once you have broken your silence.”
Medders was arrested in 2017 and charged with having raped the victim on three occasions, starting when she was 15 years old, according to Flagler County Sheriff’s Office reports. He was charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious battery, one charge of lewd or lascivious molestation, and one count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, all second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years each in prison.
Evidence in the case included audio surveillance of an in-person conversation between Medders and the victim, and also a law-enforcement-controlled phone call between Medders and the victim.
Medders admitted in the recordings to having had sex with the girl.
In a March 14, 2017 recording in which detectives sent the victim to Medders’ home wearing a wire, the girl told Medders she was afraid he’d gotten her pregnant.
Medders swore, and said he didn’t think he’d gotten her pregnant. The girl mentioned that they’d had sex “three or four times,” and asked him if he remembered. He said “Yeah.” She said, “Did we not sleep together? It’s only you. It’s only been you! Did we not!? He replied, “Yes,” repeating the word several times.
On the phone call, also recorded in March 2017, the girl told Medders she thought her parents might figure out that they’d had sex. He replied, “Well we can stop that (profanity) ... and be friends.”
Then he told her to talk with him when she could, but not on the phone.
The Sheriff’s Office began investigating Medders after the victim told a counselor that she’d had sex with an adult.
The girl told a child protection team that Medders had been telling her that he was sexually attracted to her since she was 13, that he would come to her house, speak with her parents and become “touchy-feel” with her, and that he’d had sex with her three times, on his property.
He had blamed the girl for the rapes, and told her that she had “provoked” him to have sex with her and “that it would be her fault if they were caught,” according to the charging affidavit.
In a letter to a Sheriff’s Office deputy, the victim’s mother wrote that her daughter had asked Medders, “How do you look my parents in their face and talk to them after knowing what we’ve done?” and that he’d replied, “I feel bad, but I do it anyway.”