Sex offender slips away from court

ANGLETON, TX [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Authorities say Jesse Massengale managed to slip out of the Brazoria County Courthouse moments after he was found guilty, just before he was to be punished. And they say this isn't the only time he's tried to get around the system.

What makes this case interesting is that the suspect didn't have to break away from prison guards. He just walked out the courthouse doors.

Attorney Ken Bishop has seen quite a few sex offender cases in his career, but the one he encountered Tuesday is the one he won't forget.

"In 21 years that I've practiced law, I've never had this happen before," he said.

Bishop represents Jesse Massengale. The Brazoria County man, who was convicted of statutory rape, was on trial for failing to register as a sex offender. On Tuesday, a jury had convicted Massengale, but before his sentencing, the judge made a rather typical move.

Bishop recalled, "The judge decided it was time to break for lunch, and he said, 'Well, everybody be back at 2:00.'"

What no one seemed to realize is that Massengale, who was at the time free on bond, had other intentions. When court resumed, Massengale was not in his seat. His attorney learned through a series of phone calls that he was not coming back.

Bishop explained, "He said he was near the Brazoria/Galveston county line on FM 2004 and I thought he was headed back to Angleton. Then he tells me, 'No, I'm actually headed toward Hitchcock' -- the opposite direction.

Massengale, who had three times in the past failed to register as a sex offender, was already facing up to 10 years in prison. Without him in court, the jury was allowed to continue and they sentenced him to six years in prison plus a $5,000 fine. By Massengale now skipping out, the DA's office will recommend he be indicted on felony failure to appear.

Brazoria County District Attorney Jerri Yenne said, "It's a significant issue, and we're going to be actively looking for him. We're going to make him a priority."

Massengale could face up to 10 years in prison if he's indicted on charges of failure to appear. A grand jury is expected to hear this case sometime next week whether or not he shows up and turns himself in.

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