Teen accused of sexual assaults, bond violations pleads guilty to assault and battery
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A teenager charged with sexual assault, who court documents show visited golf courses, restaurants and stores while he was supposed to be on house arrest, went before a judge Friday morning.
Although he was there to make a guilty plea, the families of the victims say they don’t feel like justice was served.
Three-and-a-half years after Bowen Turner was charged with sexually assaulting his first victim and almost 3 years after he allegedly sexually assaulted his second, he pleaded guilty before an Orangeburg County judge.
Turner, however, did not plead guilty to the charge he was facing: first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Turner pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence Friday morning, according to Sarah Ford, an attorney for the victims.
“The defendant pled guilty to assault and battery and was given a probationary sentence,” she says. “He’s not even required to register on the sex offender registry unless he messes up yet again.”
Despite the fact that criminal court proceedings are open to the public, Live 5 News was denied access to the courtroom to watch the plea hearing, which is against the law.
But after the hearing, the Stollers, the family of Turner’s first alleged victim, joined together with Besses, the family of the second, to discuss the hearing.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Chloe Bess, one of the alleged victims, says. “I feel like no matter what we say, it falls on deaf ears.”
Karl Stoller, the father of the other alleged victim, also says Friday’s hearing was a disappointment.
“We don’t feel like justice has been wholly satisfied today, and that’s unfortunate,” he says.
Turner was out on bond for the first alleged assault when he was arrested for the second, court documents show. He had been out on bond a majority of the time since then on house arrest and with a GPS monitor, according to those documents.
Instead of staying at home as ordered by a judge, court documents say Turner visited various golf courses 19 times, as well as restaurants and sporting goods shops and even went out of state.
“There [has] been issue after issue with this case,” Ford says. “This defendant has ignored court order after court order, and these victims have been told to sit and endure.”
The judge did sign a permanent restraining order for the victims, Ford says. However, Turner’s charge can be expunged, meaning the charges would be totally removed from Turner’s public record and would not show up in a background search because he was sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act.
This has been a judicial rollercoaster, overwhelming and disheartening, especially after the death of the first alleged victim, Dallas Stoller, last November, the families say.
“The fact that the defendant is going to walk free today with a 5-year probation sentence and our sister is never going to walk the earth again, I feel like not only her voice is stolen but ours is too,” Brette Tabatabai, the sister of Dallas, says.
Despite the frustration and the fact that Turner’s plea is not the closure they were seeking, the families say there’s more to their story.
“It’s a very defeating feeling, but I refuse to be defeated,” Bess says.
Bess’s dad, Darren, agrees.
“What we need to do moving forward [is] to continue to be a voice for victims across the state of South Carolina who seemingly have no voice,” he says.
We asked prosecutors and Turner’s defense attorney, State Legislator Brad Hutto, for comment as they were leaving the courtroom this morning, but they would not say anything.
As for the illegal refusal to allow Live 5 News in a courtroom that was open to other members of the public, our lawyers are addressing that.
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