Special Olympics volunteer sentenced to 15 years for sex with underage athlete

Davis (provided)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A Special Olympics volunteer, accused of having sex with a 15-year-old Special Olympics athlete, has been sentenced to over 15 years in prison.

"This case certainly, when you look at it, deserves the maximum penalty," said 9th circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson before announcing her sentencing.

Cornelius Davis pleaded guilty in a Charleston court Tuesday. He was charged with criminal sexual conduct in the second degree with a minor and two counts of assault and battery in the third degree in Lexington and Richland counties.

"I wouldjust like to apologize to the victim, my family, to the court for just beinghere," said Davis as he addressed the court Tuesday afternoon. "It's been a humbling experience and I'm just embarrassed to be, even tobe in the courtroom, dealing with such problems that's not even a part of mycharacter."The prosecutor gave reports from medical officials describing the physical evidence against Davis, including DNA found on the victim.Mount Pleasant police say Davis was with the young girl at least twice. According to a police report, Davis was serving as a counselor. He's accused of having sex with the victim at the Quality Inn near Patriots Point during the 2012 Special Olympics Mid-Winter Games.

"Mr.{}Davis came to the [victim's hotel] room and said that heneeded her (the victim) to come to his room.{}Sheended up going to his room and did not get back home until 2:30 in the morning," said Debbie Herring-Lash, an attorney. "The chaperone asked her where she'd been and at that point she said she'd beenwalking around the halls. The chaperone was a bit suspicious because she hadbeen walking around looking for the victim.{}In the report, a classmate of the victim said Davis was having sex with the underage girl in the middle of the night. The next day, the victim's mother found explicit text messages and pictures in her daughter's phone after hearing concern from chaperones.{}The victim told her mom she was "touched" by Davis at her school in Lexington County prior to the 2012 incident in Mount Pleasant. Attorneys also said Davis had sexual intercourse with the victim at some point at his home in Richland County.{}

"Shedoes homeschool. She can't go to regular school," said Essence Gregg, the victim's mother. "She's afraid to go outside. She'safraid to be around friends. She's afraid of men in general. Her grandfather,my husband, her father. It was horrific."

The victim's mother told the judge her now 17-year-old daughter has the mind of a 12-year-old and has had to be put on medication to sleep after her attack.

"If{}you would have seen her prior to this she would have been like a littleblossoming flower," Gregg said. "Now, she's all gloomy, distraught, cries a lot, scared to gooutside."The maximum sentence for Davis was 20 years. Since Davis did not have a prior record the judge accepted Davis' guilty plea and sentenced him to 15 years for the sexual conduct charge and 2 months for the assault charges. All three sentences are to be served concurrently.


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