Gassville man receives 20-year sentence on sexual assault charge

Photo: Joseph Nicholas Desparrois

A Gassville man pled guilty to charges of inappropriately touching the 8-year-old daughter of his then girlfriend and was sentenced to 20 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction, with 12 to serve and eight suspended. The plea came during a session of Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday.

Thirty-eight-year-old Joseph Nicholas Desparrois was arrested in June and charged with second-degree sexual assault. Desparrois has been an inmate in the Baxter County jail since being booked. His bond was set at $35,000.

The victim is reported to have told her mother about the activity and allegedly pointed at Desparrois, whom she referred to as “Daddy Nick,” as the perpetrator. According to court records, the mother reported the incident to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office in late March.

During the investigation into the alleged incident, the girl’s mother provided a recording of her speaking to Desparrois about the victim’s accusations. On the recording – which was provided to investigators – Desparrois is reportedly heard admitting he touched the victim, but said it was “over her clothing.” He also said he did not know why he did such things, according to court records.

The child’s accusations were reported to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, but the case was initially rejected as not meeting criteria for an investigation. It was in June the case was resubmitted and accepted.

The victim was questioned by a certified child forensic interviewer and was reported to have described acts Desparrois allegedly committed.

In a call reportedly made to a relative of the child’s mother, Desparrois is said to have asked the case not be pursued so he would not have to face the possibility of prison with his “gimp arm.”

An unusual twist in the case happened when Desparrois and his former girlfriend went on a syndicated tabloid television show hosted by Steven Wilkos, an ex-Chicago policeman and former security director for the Jerry Springer Show, to tell their story.

During his time on camera, Desparrois repeatedly denied the allegation of improper conduct involving the 8-year-old girl. He said the ex-girlfriend’s family disliked him, and he suspected they had “coached” the girl to make the accusations.

Wilkos told his audience Desparrois had taken a lie detector test required by the program, and it showed he was not telling the truth, when he denied the sexual activity with the girl.

Desparrois admitted on the television show he had been accused of similar behavior in 2002 or 2003, but “nothing came of it.” He provided no details.

When Wilkos asked him why he could not explain the reason the earlier case was not pursued, Desparrois said he no longer talks to his family and had not inquired as to why the matter was dropped.

The results of the lie detector test Desparrois took as part of his appearance on the tabloid talk show seemed to convince the girl’s mother Desparrois could have done what her daughter said he did. Initially she told the show’s host she was “torn” because she considered both her daughter and her boyfriend credible.

Even after the results of the lie detector test were announced, Desparrois continued to deny he had inappropriate contact with his ex-girlfriend’s daughter.

In late June, the ex-girlfriend filed a petition seeking an order of protection to keep Desparrois away from her and her two children – the 8-year-old victim of the alleged sexual contact, and a 6-year-old daughter she apparently had with Desparrois, according to court records.

The protective order is in effect until late July 2029.

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