Metro-East News

Sex offender facing charges in Troy sues, says burden to prove innocence is too high

Derrick Sepp
Derrick Sepp Provided

A Florida man facing child sex assault charges has filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois alleging that the burden of proof placed on him to prove his innocence is too high.

Derrick Sepp says Illinois' laws "allow convictions without proof," placing a crippling burden on the defendant and lowering the burden of proof for prosecutors so much so that they only need to place someone on the stand and point and say, "He did it." This, he said, is a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights to protect against self-incrimination and violates his 14th Amendment right to due process.

"The federal court has the jurisdiction to intervene to protect my rights and to ensure Illinois follows the law of the land," Sepp wrote in a 22-page, handwritten lawsuit, filed in federal court in East St. Louis. "Intervene now before I'm convicted based on an unfair and illegal law."

The Illinois Attorney's General Office directed comment to the Illinois Department of Corrections, where a spokesman said the case did not involve them.

Sepp was charged with three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in July 2017, and he has been in the Madison County Jail since then.

He was sentenced in 2008 for sex crimes against a 12-year-old child in Polk County, Fla. Troy Police say they launched an investigation into him after a Troy man read about Sepp's case online and contacted police in 2014, alleging Sepp used an online chat room in 2002 and 2003 to arrange a meeting with him in Illinois and sexually assault him when he was 12 years old.

Because Sepp's case spans back so far, he said it is unfair of the court to expect him to remember specifics about where he was 15 years ago, according to the lawsuit. Any records that could have proven his innocence no longer exist, he said.

He said in the lawsuit if the prosecution can't place him in Illinois at the time of the alleged crime, or provide records of how he got to the state, and if no one saw him with the boy, the state has no evidence.

In the lawsuit, Sepp brought up multiple times how it's unfair that "positive and credible identification of a single witness (the Troy man) is enough to convict." He said that allowing an allegation or witness testimony to convict someone of a sex offense puts too high of a burden of proof on himself, when that burden of proof should be placed on the prosecution.

Actually, in a criminal case, the defendant has no burden of proof. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, which must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Prosecutors pursue sex charges even without proof because they know when juries see an alleged victim testify 'He did it' even if there is not a single piece of evidence, prosecutors know and take advantage of the fact that jurors carry their hatred and disgust for other people accused of sexual assault, like Larry Nasser, and take out their anger and use their emotion alone to convict someone," Sepp argues in the suit.

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