By Paula Ann Solis
Former Baylor football player, Tevin Sherard Elliott, 22, was denied his plea for a retrial Monday and will continue to serve a 20-year prison sentence for two counts of sexual assault, according to a court official.
Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court gave the order denying a retrial. A reason for the decision was not provided.
More than 100 of Elliott’s friends and family traveled from Mount Pleasant, DeSoto, Dallas and the surrounding area April 4 to support his fight for a retrial on the grounds that Elliott’s former attorney, Jason P. Darling, did not deliver effective representation.
Elliott’s punishment stems from an assault on April 15, 2012 at the Aspen Heights Apartment complex involving a former Baylor student. Elliott was found guilty of assaulting the woman twice in one night outside a party both were attending.
Several of Elliott’s supporters wore t-shirts the day of his hearing that read “Free Tevin Elliot,” “Justice for Elliott” or “I Am Tevin.” Johnson, who also presided over the trial in January, ordered those in attendance to turn their shirts inside out before entering the courtroom and told them not to sit in the front rows of the courtroom.
Following Elliott’s guilty verdict in January, his family hired Dallas-based attorney William A. Bratton III, who filed a motion explaining several ways Darling failed to provide effectual representation.
Bratton questioned why two pieces of evidence, a surveillance video from the apartment complex and an audiovisual recording made by Elliott, were not part of the defense’s strategy.
Darling submitted an affidavit on April 2 to the court explaining his trial tactics and several attempts at working with Elliott’s family to form a defense fitting for the trial.
“His family was present during trial and during trial breaks and gave their input and thoughts of how the trial was going,” Darling said in the affidavit.
Elliott’s father, James Rockwell, said his input was often ignored and he knew early on during the trial that Darling was not defending his son well.
“I asked him to dismiss himself and he said the judge wouldn’t allow him to do that,” Rockwell said. “He refused to remove himself.”
In the motion Bratton filed with the court, he stated the surveillance recording from the Aspen Heights complex had a 30-minute time frame, 1:08 a.m. to 1:38 a.m., omitted. This omitted portion could have shown the defendant and victim entering the pool area together in a way contrary to the victim’s testimony, Bratton said.
At the hearing, Bratton called Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde, one of Elliott’s prosecutors, to the stand to ask why she did not consider the possibility the victim was committing perjury.
“I don’t believe she was,” LaBorde said.
LaBorde also said the victim was drunk the night of the incident, which explained her statement changing after the attack.
Phelicia Rockwell, Elliott’s aunt, said the family learned her nephew’s motion was denied from an article online and was not expecting the decision to be a negative one.
“It’s been stressful,” Rockwell said. “We have been praying, we have been waiting and we have all been just trying to stay positive. We left the courthouse on a hopeful note with all the information that was presented. With the issues and the discrepancies, it was just like, we knew that the judge was going to have to make a conscious decision to review what came out and at least offer the young man a new trial.”
Both Elliott’s father and aunt said the family is planning to move forward with an appeal, regardless of the costs they are incurring.
“This has taken a toll on every last one of us,” Rockwell said. “Every last family member has texted me today and now I’m the one to go back and tell them he was denied with no reason, no explanation, no anything. It hurts.”