18-year-old held on $1 million bail in New Year's rape

Casey Grove

An 18-year-old man raped a teenage girl near train tracks in South Anchorage after beating her and binding her hands with duct tape New Year's Day, according to charges against him.

Court records show the alleged rapist, Jessye Raine Potts, is charged with four felony counts of first-degree sexual assault in the surprise attack, as well as a felony assault charge and a misdemeanor assault charge. Potts, who is being held on $1 million cash bail, was initially also charged with kidnapping, but prosecutors dropped that charge.

This is what happened, according to the charging document:

The victim told detectives she met up with Potts, a friend who had texted her about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. The charges do not say the age of the victim, but police identified her as 17.

She knew Potts and agreed to go on a walk with him, starting at the place where he was staying. At some point they went to John's Park in the city's Oceanview neighborhood, not far from the railroad tracks that run along Cook Inlet.

"(The victim) commented to the suspect on the darkness and that it was getting late," the charges say.

Still, they walked together up a hill to the railroad tracks and sat down to rest. Potts allegedly said something similar to, "Sometimes crazy things pop into my head," according to the charges.

He got up and stood so close to the victim that she started to feel nervous. With Potts still standing next to her, she called her mother on her cellphone and told her mother she would be home soon. She ended the phone conversation and was pulling the phone away from her ear when Potts grabbed it and hung up the call. He then gave the phone back, and she put it in her pocket.

But Potts allegedly snatched the phone out of her pocket and hit her multiple times in the back of the head.

"The blows stunned her and caused her to be unable to maintain her balance. (She) fell face up, onto the ground. The suspect was standing over her," the charges say.

Potts flipped her over and hit her again. He bound her hands with duct tape and taped her mouth, according to the charges. He pushed snow around her face -- she told detectives later that she thought he was trying to suffocate her -- and raped her, the charges say.

Potts then left the area. The victim lay on the ground, motionless. Eventually she started to look around. Potts was walking down the train tracks. He ran back when he saw her moving, and she started "begging the suspect not to further assault her," the charges say.

Potts removed the duct tape and told her "words to the effect of he 'didn't know what she was talking about,' and fled," the charges say.

The victim ran to a random house nearby, jumped a fence to the backyard and got the attention of someone inside, who called police. The victim was taken in for a rape examination, and though the full results were unknown as of Jan. 1, the nurse examiner noted injuries to the victim's skull and finger.

The victim told detectives a possible address for Potts, and they went to talk to him. A detective and patrol officers found Potts there with his family.

Detective Jean Dupuis, the lead investigator on the case, said in a phone interview Friday that Potts was taken in for questioning and to have a photograph taken. Soon after, the victim identified Potts in a photo lineup and police arrested him, according to the charges.

"He was actually arrested just a couple hours after the incident," Dupuis said.

Dupuis said he has not received results from DNA tests. It was unclear how long that could take, the detective said, adding that such results can take months in some cases.

Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion said the original kidnapping charge fit Alaska law, but past legal decisions on how defendants restrained their victims meant the case did not necessarily fit the kidnapping charge.

"From our perspective, it may not have much practical difference now, nor, potentially, if there were a conviction, in terms of a sentence," Campion said. "It's a very aggressive sentencing range that he faces if he's convicted of the sexual assaults."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4343. Twitter updates: twitter.com/kcgrove.