LEE COUNTY, FL – A 15-year-old boy will be labeled a sex offender after he sexually assaulted another boy inside the Lee County School District headquarters.
15-year-old Cozelle Francis pled ‘no contest’ to trying to have sex with an 11-year-old classmate inside a bathroom stall.
Only NBC2 investigators were there as the judge found enough evidence to hold the teen in state custody.
Francis was a virtual school student – meaning all of his course work was done on-line. He met the 11-year-old victim during testing at district headquarters.
A teacher found Francis in the stall with the victim.
On Friday, a judge called his behavior predatory.
“It appears to be a crime of opportunity as well,” said Juvenile Judge Nick Thompson.
Judge Nick Thompson described the sex assault Francis committed against the 11-year-old boy.
“It appears at one point a person entered the bathroom and Mr. Francis put his hand over the child’s mouth to keep him quiet,” said Thompson.
Soon after, a teacher discovered the two and saw the 11-year-old whispering “please, help me.”
“This is a very serious case,” said Thompson.
The boy’s mother read a letter her son wrote the judge.
“I wish my family was able to move on and to have hope – to have my family the way it was before. I never want this to happen to anyone else,” read the letter.
Since the incident last November, Francis has been staying with his guardians.
His grandfather – a Fort Myers minister – told the judge that he even screwed his grandson’s bedroom window shut, so he couldn’t get out.
“Since this incident, Cozelle hasn’t been allowed outside period,” said Alibaba Lumumba, “Unless, he is with one of us.”
Francis told the judge and his victim’s family he was sorry for what he did.
“I may not directly be able to make things better for your family, but I want to improve. I do want to at least have a chance to prove to the community that I can be and want to be a better person,” said Francis.
The Department of Children and Families recommended continuing the case for further study before Francis was sentenced. The judge disagreed.
“Mr. Francis should be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice,” said Thompson.
Francis was fingerprinted and is now in state custody for 15 days. He must be registered as a juvenile sex offender.
While Francis’ family was speechless, his victim’s family says they felt justice was served.
Francis was ordered to undergo treatment in a state facility. He is accused of molesting another young boy in 2009. That boy was non-verbal at the time.
Prosecutors say that victim is now talking about what happened, and they may consider reopening the case.
By Dave Elias, NBC2 Investigator