A Wisconsin high-school principal is accused of intimidating an alleged rape victim who was slated to testify against her boyfriend.
Prosecutors say Valencia Carthen, 42, of Milwaukee, visited the unnamed accuser each week, pushing her to recant her testimony and to leave town on behalf of her beau, Jason Jay Lamar Cunningham.
Carthen and Cunningham, 39, were charged last week with felony intimidation of a victim. They each face up to 10 years in prison.
The allegations shocked the Washington High School of Information Technology, where Carthen was an English teacher for 10 years before becoming assistant principal in 2006, a school newsletter stated. Carthen, who has a master’s degree, also coached volleyball, cross-country and track and field.
Carthen’s attorney, Steven Kohn, told The Daily Beast that he would not comment in detail on the pending criminal case.
When asked about Carthen’s reputation, Kohn said, “I think who she is speaks for itself. She is a wonderful woman. She is a professional.”
“She has a pristine record in every sense of the manner one looks at a record,” Kohn added. “She’s a very good person, and it’s unfortunate that these allegations have been made.”
According to the criminal complaint, an adult victim called Milwaukee police on Dec. 6, 2016 to report that Carthen was calling and visiting her each week to discuss Cunningham’s case and to intimidate her.
The victim’s call came one day before the woman was scheduled to testify at Cunningham’s trial, prosecutors say. The woman dated and briefly lived with Cunningham before he raped and beat her in August 2016, court papers allege.
Cunningham is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault, as well as strangulation/suffocation and misdemeanor battery.
The accuser moved in with Cunningham just days before the assault, which occurred after he became angry about a message she received from a friend, authorities say.
She told police that Cunningham grabbed her by the neck and pushed her head into a wall after she got out of the shower. He also allegedly whipped her with a belt before ordering her to the living room to “cool off” and stop crying.
Cunningham then dragged the woman to a bedroom and forced her to perform oral sex and raped her, a complaint states. Once Cunningham left the residence, a friend transported the woman to a hospital, where staff phoned police, court papers allege.
Cunningham was apparently dating Carthen not long after.
From September to December, Carthen allegedly contacted Cunningham’s accuser repeatedly in attempts to make his case disappear. At one point, the principal allegedly warned the woman she knew where her family lived in Mississippi.
Prosecutors say Carthen also warned the woman that she knew people and students around Milwaukee Public Schools—a statement that caused the accuser to fear for her children’s safety. The warning “further motivated her cooperation with defendants Carthen and Cunningham against the prosecution,” the complaint says.
The victim told authorities she’d never met Carthen before but soon discovered that she was her alleged rapist’s latest significant other.
Indeed, Carthen was one of several women involved with Cunningham, including his wife and another woman who is the mother of his children, court documents allege.
The criminal complaint describes text messages as “corroboration” of the woman’s allegations against Carthen and her beau.
On Sept. 18, 2016, Carthen received a text message from a Troy Cunningham that read: “need to get her out of Milw one way ticket between $148-160 she packed and ready to go now. Just don’t no [sic] what do with her.”
Days later, Carthen allegedly handed Cunningham’s attorney a letter supposedly written by the victim to recant her testimony. Carthen told the attorney, Phil Atinsky, she obtained the letter from Cunningham’s mailbox.
In December, Atinsky provided screenshots from Carthen’s phone which showed texts, allegedly sent by the accuser, via the WhatsApp messaging app.
One message, dated Nov. 18, read, “Jackie sorry to bother you but I am still in town and I’m trying to still leave … my money hadn’t come thru. I need at least 250 to leave … is there any way u can help me.”
Atinsky could not be reached for comment Friday. Court records indicate a jury trial for the rape case is scheduled for March 27.
A preliminary hearing for Carthen’s intimidation charge is scheduled for Feb. 21.