TRAVERSE CITY — A jury found a Garfield Township man guilty of eight felony counts following a three-day trial in 13th Circuit Court where several adult witnesses testified Mark Anthony Jakee abused them sexually when they were minors.
“I couldn’t agree more with the jury verdict,” said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg. “I’m happy for the victims. It obviously doesn’t fix what they’ve gone through but I hope it brings them some closure and healing. They know they are responsible for stopping the abuse.”
Jakee had faced seven counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of accosting a child for an immoral purpose stemming from an investigation by officers with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office.
Moeggenberg said a stepson of one of Jakee’s victims came forward in 2019, telling his parents Jakee had abused or attempted to abuse him when he was 14 and the teen’s parents contacted law enforcement.
Sheriff’s officials said the accusations against Jakee, 54, stem from incidents involving six children and span from 1986 to 2018, as previously reported.
Michigan court rules in 2010 confirmed there’s no statute of limitations on first degree criminal sexual conduct against a minor and began allowing prosecutors to bring in witnesses from other states to testify, Moeggenberg said.
At least one of the charges stems from an accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by Jakee which occurred in Alaska, court records show.
“Juries understand why people don’t report right away, why they keep these things a secret,” Moeggenberg said. “As a society we’re better at understanding these crimes. I think, as a result of that, there has been a bit of an increase in people coming forward.”
Jakee, who was represented by Traverse City criminal defense attorney Craig Elhart, pled not guilty and testified in his own defense.
Jakee said on the stand he thought one of the witnesses was upset that Jakee would not allow him to smoke marijuana or drink beer at Jakee’s home while he was underage and may have convinced the others to testify against him.
Under questioning by Elhart, Jakee also said he worked long hours at his job, whether as a drug store manager, a clothing store manager or a barber, and had roommates, some of whom were family members, and therefore could not have perpetrated the abuse as accused.
“We’re pleased the jury took their time, of course we weren’t happy with the verdict, but we thank the jury for their work in the case,” Elhart said Thursday.
The 12-member jury was chosen Oct. 1, heard testimony Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, began deliberating Wednesday afternoon and returned a verdict of guilty on all charges that same day, records show.
Jakee had come to the attention of law enforcement in 2004, when a minor accused him of abuse, but no charges were filed, records show.
Moeggenberg said officers with the Kalkaska post of the Michigan State Police investigated but found no physical evidence and other witnesses who later said they’d been abused years earlier, had not yet come forward, she said.
Judge Thomas Power presided over the case and sentencing has been set for Nov. 12.
Michigan criminal code sentencing guidelines show Jakee faces up to 23 years in prison, Moeggenberg said.
“Back when most of this happened, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, you just didn’t talk about these things and it wasn’t brought up in school,” Moeggenberg said. “I certainly hope a case like this opens things up for people who have had something happen, will come forward.”
Even if an accusation of sexual abuse does not result in a case going to trial, Moeggenberg said talking about the abuse and seeking counseling can help victims.