Bowen Turner, a 19-year-old South Carolina resident who was sentenced to five years' probation after being accused of raping a teenager, had his probation revoked and was ordered to register as a sex offender on Wednesday after being arrested for public disorderly conduct.
Turner, who was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly raping then-16-year-old Chloe Bess in 2019, pleaded guilty this April to a reduced charge of assault and battery as part of a deal with prosecutors. In addition to sentencing him to probation, the judge said he would not have to register as a sex offender unless he violated the terms of the deal.
But a month later, Turner was arrested again in Orangeburg after a sheriff's deputy found him intoxicated and walking down a road late at night. He told the deputy he had three drinks at a bar despite being underage, according to the incident report. When he was brought to the detention center, Turner threatened a deputy who told him to put on a mask, saying, “If you try to put that mask on me, I will bite your fucking finger off.”
Turner was charged with violating probation, public disorderly conduct, purchasing or possessing alcohol as a minor, and threatening a public employee.
At his court appearance on Wednesday, his attorney Jason Turnblad said Turner admitted to having an "alcohol problem" that he would like to address through rehabilitation. He also asked Judge Roger Young to take into consideration Turner's "young age [and] his lack of a prior record before pleading to these charges."
Before he allegedly raped Bess in 2019, Turner had been accused of rape by two other teenagers in 2018. The first teen has declined to be identified publicly, said Sarah Ford, a lawyer with the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network who represents the victims and their families. The second teen, Dallas Stoller, died of a self-inflicted injury in 2021, and her case against Turner was dropped. Her family has said prosecutors told them it was because Stoller was no longer alive to testify as to whether the encounter was consensual.
Turner, who was represented in these cases by state Sen. Brad Hutto, a powerful Democrat in South Carolina, has a history of flagrant bond violations. He was out on bond in the case involving Stoller when he allegedly raped Bess in 2019. While on house arrest in Bess's case, he was found to have violated his bond order dozens of times, visiting golf courses, restaurants, malls, and once even traveling out of state to a car dealership in Georgia. He struck a plea deal with prosecutors in April, voiding a request for his bond to be revoked.
Bess's parents, Carol and Darren Bess, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that they were grateful for "a measure of justice" in their daughter's case, but expressed sadness that it took so long to happen — three years since Bess's alleged encounter — and that the other two cases still have not been resolved.
They also said Hutto's involvement in the case gave Turner favorable treatment.
"Although what happened to our daughter, the attack, the bullying, the failures of a system meant to protect citizens is bad enough — these abuses of power, must be recognized and as a family we are committed along with others involved to bring light into what otherwise is a very dark circumstance," they said.
Meanwhile, Stoller's family has petitioned 2nd Circuit Solicitor Bill Weeks to reopen her case. Her sister, Brette Tabatabai, told BuzzFeed News that her family was looking forward to hearing from Weeks's office soon.
Tabatabai said she was "a little surprised" that Turner's probation was revoked.
"Just because of the way the system has worked for Bowen and not the victims," she said. "This is one step towards justice for our girls, and I’m very optimistic that we are going to continue to see more."
Both Bess's and Stoller's families have pointed to the way their cases were handled as examples of how the justice system in South Carolina works against sexual assault victims and their rights.
"Today was a step in the right direction," Ford, the victims' attorney, said. "But it certainly doesn’t absolve what these victims have been put through over the past few years."