Judge Jan Shackelford presiding
By Joseph Snook
Escambia County, FL – Most professionals would agree that children lie. Young children often have a creative and vivid imagination. Learning the implications of a lie can be difficult without proper guidance. When a child lies, adults often laugh hysterically because it is so blatantly obvious. As a parent, I can relate to a child’s fib and the humorous aspect of such. Despite the humor of lies told by children, the implications of certain un-truths can have serious effects. How can someone believe a child who clearly displays deceitful traits? How does a parent or an adult make the determination whether a lie is acceptable or not, regardless of its nature? How can you tell the difference between a lie and truth when a child who has admittedly lied to authorities, and makes a statement that indicates a crime has been committed to that same authority?
“An even more sophisticated level of lying emerges between the ages of 6 and 8… At this stage, it’s not just the content of the lie, but the motive or attitude…” ~Scholastic.com
Allegations of a Girl Have Placed Zane Crowder in Prison for Life, Plus 25 Years
The accuser was playing outside her babysitter’s house with another young girl. As the two children continued to talk and play, the accuser told the older child that she had been touched by someone in her private area.
The babysitter, Terrie Webb was then informed by the older child. The parents of the accuseer, Abe and Danielle Levi, along with the authorities were subsequently contacted. Later, while describing the alleged sexual assault to authorities, the accuser claimed to have been told by a friend of hers that the same thing had also happened to her. According to video evidence, there were no questions from authorities to determine the validity of the statement by the accuser’s friend or the probability of this comment by another young child possibly contributing to the accuser’s similar accusation.
Based on the accuser’s statement alone, 22 year old Zane Crowder was arrested on June 6, 2010. Zane was ordered to be under electronic monitoring by the police and was charged with sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation upon a child under 12 years of age.
The accuser had claimed that Zane penetrated her private area with his finger. Zane was a close friend of accuser’s step-father Abe Levi at the time of her accusation. Although he denied the allegations, he was labeled a child molester by many in his community, including many friends, neighbors and the local mainstream media.
The Evidence or the Lack Thereof
The accuser was interviewed by Linda Kahl at the Gulf Coast Kid’s House on March 17, 2010. During the interview the accuser stated that she had already talked about the allegation with five other people. This is important because children can be easily manipulated to give a desired answer when asked the same or similar questions repeatedly. While answering Linda’s questions, the accuser stated that as a second grader, she was very good at Geometry. The accuser acknowledged with a head nod when Linda stated that she “must get good grades,” and said “I only got three F’s in my whole entire life.” The accuser explained that she had a verbal and physical conflict at school with another student which was the reason for one of her failing grades.
The accuser admitted during the interview that she had lied to an associate of Linda’s about her mother smoking cigarettes. The accuser continued, “I didn’t mean to lie, I just,” – Linda cut her off by stating, “didn’t know her too well, and that’s okay (referring to the person the accuser had lied to).” The accuser followed up by giving a statement without being asked, “my parents don’t do drugs,” but accuser’s mother, Danielle Levi admitted to Teresa Greenquist, the nurse who examined accuser that she “had used marijuana…” While talking about the alleged molestation, the accuser couldn’t remember the first time it had occurred, nor could she remember the most recent time it occurred. She could remember that it had happened about “15 times,” one of which the accuser stated was “when she was sleeping.” The accuser then stated without being asked, “…I was [gonna] ask you if you were [gonna] ask me if it was on the inside or the outside”(referring to the touching of her private area). She continued by saying all of the occurrences happened when her parents were either gone or sleeping. According to witness statements, Danielle only left the accuser alone with Zane on one occasion. When asked if Zane said anything to her during the touching, the accuser stated, he said he would “torture her” if she opened her eyes. The accuser said she knew what he meant by “torturing her” – he would cause bruises and she continued by saying he wouldn’t be alive today if he did that. Interesting statement coming from a seven year old – Maybe an expert should have analyzed this statement and many others?
No DNA evidence was used to support the allegations against Zane. No sexual assault kit was used for the examination of the accuser. According to nurse Greenquist, who examined the girl, she had conducted 1,152 sexual assault exams as of August of 2010. Greenquist confirmed there was “no physical evidence of any damage to the vaginal area.” There was “no vaginal discharge or infections.” There was no physical evidence that the girl had been sexually assaulted. There were no witnesses to the alleged crime. There was no past history of sexual abuse involving Zane Crowder. There was no admission by Zane to any of the allegations, only adamant opposition. The only piece of evidence against Zane was the accuser’s statement. It would be next to impossible to explain to the jury how children lie without the testimony of an expert witness. Zane Crowder’s defense did not present any expert witness testimony…
A One Day Trial and Off to Life in Prison – Pure Insanity
On January 21, 2011 a jury was chosen to hear the State of Florida’s case against Zane Crowder. Out of six jurors, four were black and two were caucasian. This case took place in the deep south. Even though racial tension is not often a reported issue, one should still consider whether or not color played a role. There was an African American female alleged victim and a Caucasian male defendant. Zane’s uncle, Byron Hubbard stated, “some of the jurors were sleeping during trial, and another was more concerned with her nails and looking around the court than listening to the case.” He continued, “You wouldn’t believe anything like this was actually possible unless you were in court that day.” Zane’s mother, Lisa Stewart stated that Zane’s attorney Patrece Cashwell had told her that she did not get along with Judge Jan Shackelford, the presiding judge. Lisa continued, “that was obvious during trial.” Lisa also stated that “Shackelford was seen rolling her eyes several times while Zane’s attorney spoke, which was witnessed by many of the jurors.” Another witness Susan Vignolo stated, “During the trial one juror kept staring at the ceiling.”
After a ONE day trial, the jury found Zane Crowder guilty of all charges. Judge Shackelford sentenced Zane to life in prison, plus 25 years. Again, pure insanity…
Zane, now 24 years of age, has served over two years of his life sentence. His appeal, which was handled by attorney Ross Keene was denied without opinion by the Florida Supreme Court. Zane’s family is continuing their fight to vindicate him. Miami Law Innocence Clinic at the University of Miami has taken Zane’s case in an effort to help Zane put together a post-conviction relief case. Zane’s Uncle and Mother have also been in contact with the Florida Innocence Project. The US~Observer has taken on Zane’s case and firmly believes that he is entitled to a new trial. No one will ever know for certain what actually happened except for Zane and the accuser, however, one fact remains – Zane was arrested, charged and sentenced to life plus 25 years with only an accusation.
This writer attempted to communicate with the accuser’s parents (Abe and Danielle Levi) several times prior to the publication of this article with no response.
If you have any information about anyone named in this article, please contact Joseph Snook at 541-226-8235 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you know Abe or Danielle Levi? Do you know Zane Crowder? Has the accuser or her parents made a statement to you about this case? If you have information, be responsible and call.