A Duluth man testified Thursday that he still doesn't know what prompted him to sexually assault a teenage girl at gunpoint during a March 2019 home invasion in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
But 27-year-old Jaquan Lamarr Harkins said he takes "full responsibility" for his role in terrorizing a family during the incident that started as a simple attempt to steal marijuana and cash.
Harkins pleaded guilty in State District Court to four felonies in a case that already has his cousin, Christian Hamzah Coleman, serving more than 18 years in prison.
"I wasn't in my right state of mind," Harkins said from a hearing room at the St. Louis County Jail. "I wasn't thinking straight. I was being more impulsive than thinking rationally. Truthfully, that's all I can come up with."
His answer came in response to a question from Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Vicky Wanta, who sought clarity on how the situation escalated so severely.
"Oftentimes, the biggest question victims have is why something happened to them," the prosecutor said. "And that's usually the only question I can never answer for them. I can try to figure out what happened and when and who. But I can never answer why. And that's always their biggest hurdle when it comes to trying to find some healing."
Harkins admitted that he accompanied Coleman and a third man, whose identity he said he did not know, went to the house on the 600 block of Atlantic Avenue in the early morning of March 19, 2019. He said he was "in a dark place" and needed money, so he followed Coleman in search for goods to steal.
Harkins said he was surprised by how many people were inside the house. He said he and Coleman were exchanging a BB gun, which resembled a real handgun, and that they both used it to strike the victims while directing them to a couch in the living room.
Court documents previously described how multiple residents were awoken by masked men who demanded drugs and money. Two adults and two preteen children were ordered to the couch before Harkins said he went to rummage through the basement and found the teenage girl.
The defendant said his first thought was to bring her upstairs to the rest of the family, but instead "I asked her for sexual favors." Upon further questioning, Harkins admitted using the threat of the BB gun to force the victim to perform oral sex. He said Coleman then came downstairs and did the same.
Eventually, the three men left with the victim's phones, a TV and a small amount of marijuana and cash. Harkins testified they traveled a few blocks and threw the TV into a trash can. He said he then got into a dispute with Coleman and left his cousin and the other man.
Coleman, who was casually known by the teen victim, was later arrested based on a photo lineup identification. A DNA sample from the scene later identified Harkins as one of the perpetrators, with Coleman also implicating him in testimony.
Coleman, now 20, pleaded guilty to five felonies and was sentenced in October 2019 to 220 months in prison. The third suspect has not been charged.
Harkins entered his pleas Thursday to aiding and abetting first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of first-degree burglary. Five additional counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment will be dismissed.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Wanta will be able to seek a guideline sentence comparable to Coleman's, while defense attorney Rebecca Shaw is free to file a motion for a below-guideline sentence.
Judge Dale Harris ordered a presentence investigation and psychosexual evaluation ahead of a June 7 sentencing hearing.
Harkins has prior convictions in Minnesota for being a felon in possession of a firearm, felony drug possession and fleeing a police officer. He also has multiple burglary, drug and theft convictions in Illinois.
Harkins' admission came just over two months after he was arrested and made his first appearance. Shaw said it was her client who requested a speedy resolution for the sake of the victims and his own family.
"Genuinely, I can say I think about it a lot," Harkins testified. "I was thinking about it after it happened. That's why me and (Coleman) ended up fighting, because I wasn't in the right state of mind. But I don't blame the drugs. I blame myself being money-hungry, trying to do something that's normally not my character.
"I just hope the family can forgive me someday and that they can heal from this. I'm going to have a lot of time to think about it."