MURPHYSBORO — Joseph Campanella, the Du Quoin man discovered by police in October in the process of having sex with a 15-year-old male, will not be charged in Jackson County.
Campanella was found about 7:52 p.m. Oct. 25 outside the old Gallery strip club by Eric Howard, a De Soto police officer. In his report, Howard described finding Campanella and the youth in various stages of undress in the back of a car.
“The white male was naked and had an erection,” the officer’s report reads. The report then stated the youth informed the officer that Campanella “had a condom on his penis and was getting ready to have sex with him.” According to the narrative, the teen told officers that Campanella performed on him oral and digital penetration.
According to the report, the teen told the officer he had met Campanella on the online dating website Grindr.
After getting final reports back from investigators, Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr formally declined prosecution Tuesday. Although The Southern does not normally report on declinations to file, this story rose to public attention after an article was published in another area newspaper last year about the initial incident.
The declination of prosecution states the “accused has reasonably effective defense." According to the remarks on why the state declined to file, it states that Campanella had reasonable deniability in knowing the age of the teen he apparently engaged in sexual acts with.
“The suspect informed law enforcement that he had met the youth through an on-line dating site which requires users to verify that they are over 18. The youth verified that he lied about his age to gain access to the site and that he did not tell the suspect his real age. When asked by the suspect about his young appearance, the youth explained that he just laughed and did not tell the suspect that he was under age,” the report reads.
The declination report explained that to charge someone with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, a Class 2 felony, it has to be believed that the defendant reasonably knew the victim was between 13 and 17 years old.
“(Campanella) verified that he met the youth through a dating site which requires participants to verify that they are 18 years of age," the report reads. "The statutory defense to this charge arises if the suspect reasonably believes that the youth is 17 or older. The prosecutor’s responsibility if such a defense is raised is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect’s belief was unreasonable." The report also states that “although he appeared to the suspect to be younger than 18, there is nothing to suggest that the suspect believed he was under 17.”
According to the report, the state did not think it would be able to effectively prosecute Campanella based simply on the physique of the 15-year-old male.
“The difference in appearance between a 15- and 17-year-old is so subjective that, absent proof that the suspect knew his real age, a prosecution for this offense cannot be brought,” the report reads.