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Ex-Newport News police officer acquitted in sexual assault case, daycare provider found not guilty on two counts

Daily Press - 7/2/2022

A jury on Thursday acquitted a former Newport News police officer on all counts in a sexual assault case, and found a daycare provider not guilty on two of the most serious charges she faced.

About 20 family members of officer Robert Jones and daycare provider Kristi Lynn Cline cried tears of relief and joy as the verdicts were read by a clerk before Circuit Court Judge William Shaw.

Family members, Jones and Cline embraced and hugged each other and their attorneys in the Newport News Circuit Court hallway immediately after the decision.

The 12-member jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon and continued most of Thursday before reaching a verdict on the majority of pending charges.

The charges stemmed from accusations made by a 25-year-old woman, whom Cline cared for as a child.

She accused Cline and Jones of sexually assaulting her more than 100 times over a year and a half. The accuser said the incidents took place between early 2009 and mid-2010, beginning when she was 12 and ending when she was 14.

She said she began to understand what happened after having a daughter in 2016 and realizing the seriousness of sexual assault on a child. Jones and Cline were arrested and charged in 2019 after the woman made formal allegations in late 2018.

The 12-member jury found Jones not guilty of all of the felony sexual assault charges against him — forcible sodomy, two counts of rape and five counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.

They found Cline not guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual battery. But they could not reach an agreement on six other charges against Cline — two counts of object sexual penetration, carnal knowledge and three counts of indecent liberties.

Jury members indicated widespread agreement on those charges as well, but that there was at least one holdout among them.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Pass, the Chesapeake prosecutor brought in to hear the case, said she would have to weigh whether to bring Cline back for a new trial on the six charges on which the jurors couldn’t agree. She said she would discuss the matter with the accuser.

The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press generally do not identify accusers in sexual assault cases without their permission.

Jones, 50, began with the Newport News Police in 2007 and was terminated in May 2020 after the charges were filed. Cline, 46, ran a home day care on Springwell Place for 11 years, where she cared for the accuser as a child.

Jones and Cline said the assaults never took place, with their lawyers asserting that the accuser is mentally ill, either delusional or simply fabricating the charges. Testifying during the three-day trial, Jones said he met or spoke with the accuser 12 to 15 times between 2008 and 2010, but that no sexual activity ever took place.

Jones’ lawyer, Timothy Clancy, and Cline’s lawyer, Ron Smith, said around the time that the woman was first talking about the allegations, she was involuntarily committed four times for mental health treatment. She was treated for such things as bipolar disorder, personality disorder and hallucinations, they said. At the time, she wasn’t taking some of the medications her doctor prescribed.

When she first began telling others about the alleged assault, court testimony revealed she claimed that several other men had raped her, too, including family members. She has since backed off most of the allegations, saying at least one was a “cover story” to explain to her classmates that she had been raped without saying who did it.

But defense attorneys contended the other rape allegations — which came about after postpartum depression and a mental health break in late 2016 — made the accuser not credible. They pointed out that she suggested her own mother could have been profiting from the abuse.

“This is a scary case,” Smith said during closing arguments, saying the prosecution was asking jurors to ignore all the other false allegations. “They are falsely accused of this crime.”

To find Jones and Clancy guilty, Clancy said, jurors would have to take the word of the accuser alone. But her story can’t be trusted, he said. “It is not worthy of belief.”

Pass said during her closing argument that the accuser doesn’t have any current mental health issues and that she never backed off the allegations against Jones and Cline. She said the woman now has a real estate license, has sole custody of her child and has “taken control of her life.”

“She’s a survivor,” Pass said during her closing arguments.

Pass contended that Cline and Jones — who met through their sons’ football teams — were having an extramarital relationship and that they included the girl in their sexual activity in Cline’s bedroom. The accuser testified that she took to Cline and saw her as a “cool” alternative to her “strict and plain” mother.

During the trial, the woman provided what she said were the details about the alleged assaults. She said Jones would come by Cline’s home in police uniform while Cline watched her and other children.

She said the three would go upstairs to Cline’s bedroom where the assaults took place. She described two of Jones’ tattoos, below his belly button and on his shoulder, and a sex toy that she said Cline used on her. She recalled that when Jones got a call on his police radio, he sometimes quickly had have to leave, or sometimes would radio back to state falsely that he was at Walgreen’s or a nearby gas station

The defense asserted that the accuser was able to see Jones’ tattoos while he attended pool parties at the home of Cline’s neighbor. Evidence was introduced that both he and the accuser attended at least one of those pool parties.

As for the sex toys, Cline acknowledged she had them, but denied she ever used them on or introduced them to the accuser.

Much of the trial centered on whether Jones would have had time to commit the assaults in the time frame the accuser said they did. Though Jones said he did stop by Cline’s home for “bathroom breaks,” he testified that he only did that between September 2008 and January 2009, when he worked the day shift in that area.

The woman contended the assaults began in early 2009 and ran for more than a year. She said they took place between the time she arrived at Cline’s home after school at about 2:30 p.m. and before her mother picked her up a couple of hours later.

But Clancy and Smith point out numerous problems with the time frame, such as the fact that Jones had shift changes at 3 p.m. If he was on day shift, that meant returning his police car before that day’s “lineup.” It also meant not getting into his car until about 3:30 p.m. to begin the evening shift.

Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749,

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