A man accused of inappropriately touching an 8-year-old girl appeared in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday and entered a not guilty plea to a charge of second-degree sexual assault.The child is reported to have told her mother about the activity and allegedly pointed at 38-year-old Joseph Nicholas Desparrois, who was the mother’s boyfriend at the time, as the perpetrator.The accusation was reported to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, and child abuse investigators at the state level also became involved. The victim met with a certified child forensic interviewer, and was reported to have described acts Desparrois allegedly committed.Desparrois, who lives in the Gassville area, was arrested earlier this month. He remains in the Baxter County Detention Center with bond set at $35,000.
The incident became even more public when Desparrois and his 30-year-old ex-girlfriend appeared on a syndicated tabloid television show to talk about the allegations with the host, Steve Wilkos. Wilkos, who at one point was a Chicago police officer and worked as the security director for the Jerry Springer Show, has had his own program since 2007.
According to remarks made on the show, the victim’s mother apparently called program producers and offered to tell her story.
During his time on camera, Desparrois repeatedly denied the allegation of improper conduct involving the little girl. He commented to his ex-girlfriend at one point that her family disliked him, and he suspected the victim had been coached to say what she did.
The ex-girlfriend told Desparrois the little girl had said no one else had done what he is accused of doing to her. The victim reportedly referred to Desparrois as “daddy Nick.”
Wilkos told his audience Desparrois had taken a lie detector test and was shown not to be telling the truth when denying he had acted inappropriately with the little girl.
Desparrois did admit during the program he had been accused of this type behavior in the past. He said the first instance was in 2002 or 2003, but “nothing came of it.” He provided no details. When Wilkos asked him why he could not give reasons why the accusation was not pursued, Desparrois said he no longer talks to his family and had not inquired as to why the investigation was dropped.
Wilkos told Desparrois’ ex-girlfriend and mother of the victim, “It’s a pattern with this guy. If you don’t get the police involved, he will do this to another child if he walks on this charge. He’ll do it again.”
The program’s host dismissed Desparrois rather abruptly. “You’re sick. Get off my stage.” After Desparrois left the set, Wilkos urged the child’s mother to pursue prosecution of her ex-boyfriend. “Be tough,” Wilkos admonished, “Protect your daughter.”
The segment of the program featuring the victim’s mother and Desparrois can be viewed by clicking here.
The results of the lie detector test seemed to convince the victim’s mother Desparrois could have done what her daughter alleges. Initially she told Wilkos she was “torn” because she considered both Desparrois and her daughter credible. She said she was conflicted because her daughter had been known to “make up things before.”
The mother has filed a petition seeking an order of protection in the Domestic Relations Section of Baxter County Circuit Court. If Desparrois is able to bond out of jail, the order is meant to keep him away from the Gassville residence where the ex-girlfriend lives with her two daughters, including the 8-year-old victim. In the petition, the mother also asks he be prohibited from being at other locations, including the schools the daughters attend.
According to an incident report, a Baxter County deputy sheriff went to the mother’s home in late April to look into a threat Desparrois was reported to have made. The ex-girlfriend said Desparrois threatened to kill her because she had told the sheriff’s office about the allegations he had inappropriately touched her daughter.
The deputy reported smelling the odor of intoxicants while at the home and the victim’s mother was unsteady on her feet and kept repeating herself. He said the woman admitted she had been drinking because she was “from Iowa where they drink their problems away.”
Desparrois was ordered to reappear in circuit court July 11. He will be represented by a court-appointed attorney.
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