A convicted rapist who had violated terms of his release and had committed another felony was charged this week in the brutal rape of a Valleyfair employee.
Austin J. Jones, 26, was charged with attacking the woman and tightening a belt around her neck as she called out for help.
Jones was convicted in 2010 of raping a 14-year-old girl during a December drinking party at a house in Chaska.
He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 15 years of probation. In the years since, he violated his probation at least twice and was convicted of several crimes, raising questions about why he was allowed to remain on the streets.
Assistant Carver County Attorney Peter Ivy said Tuesday that Jones’ probation violations did not require a judge to put him in prison.
“Yes, [judges] may consider whatever they wish,” Ivy said. “However, if a judge departs from a presumptively correct sentence, that judge has to file a departure report with the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission.”
That said, Ivy continued, if Jones is convicted and sent to prison on the latest rape charge, “there is a high likelihood” that he’ll also get prison time for what would be his third probation violation.
The 20-year-old Valleyfair worker was raped outside the SCALE Regional Public Safety Training Facility on Valley View Drive near Jordan, roughly 13 miles southwest of the amusement park.
Valleyfair said it arranges for employees to pay $38.50 a week for housing in the dormlike setting, which is operated by Scott County.
At the peak of the summer, Valleyfair had 26 workers, all adults, residing at the facility, county spokeswoman Lisa Kohner said Tuesday.
They are not subject to a curfew because many work late into the night, she said.
Entry to the facility is controlled by an access card, and the amusement park keeps an employee there at all times “to assist [the renters] when and if necessary,” she said.
Valleyfair spokeswoman Kelsey Bailey declined to answer questions Tuesday, saying only that “associate safety is our top priority.”
When Jones was convicted in the rape case, Carver County Judge Philip Kanning’s sentence included 90 days in jail, court records show.
The count he was convicted on, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, carried a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, but it’s unusual for the maximum terms to be imposed.
After his conviction for the initial rape, probation terms included that Jones stay law-abiding and abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Since the initial rape sentence and while on probation, Jones has been convicted of felony burglary, marijuana possession and illegal use of alcohol, along with failing to stay in touch with his probation officer.
None of those misdeeds triggered imprisonment, a state Department of Corrections spokesman said Monday.
Jones appeared Monday in Scott County District Court on charges of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Attacked while on phone
According to the criminal complaint in this month’s assault and Sheriff’s Office court filings in the case, the woman was on the phone with her boyfriend about 1 a.m. on Aug. 7 when she told him she was walking over to a man near a tree who looked like he needed something.
She yelled, “Ouch, that hurts,” and the boyfriend heard the sound of the phone apparently dropping.
Officers arrived and found the woman on the ground on a blanket, a belt fastened around her neck and stripped nearly naked. She was unresponsive, shivering “and appeared to be in shock,” the charges read.
The woman was taken to a hospital where she described her attacker and noted that he smelled of cheap cologne and cigarettes.
She said he grabbed her by the wrist, and next remembered her legs and neck hurting, and being unable to breathe.
As she tried to call out for help, he kept tightening the belt and raped her, she said.
Authorities located Jones about a mile away, slumped over in a parked SUV that he might have been living in.
He drove off to a long-closed campground about 5 miles from the training facility.
Deputies caught up with him there and arrested him after he failed to explain his whereabouts.
DNA tested on the belt around the woman’s neck matched DNA examined from Jones’ underwear.