Newport Beach man marries his alleged then-underage victim

A famed Newport Beach fitness photographer accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl has married his alleged victim now that she's an adult, county records show.

Jason James Ellis, 36, who is facing statutory rape charges, married the 18-year-old woman in Laguna Hills on Feb. 28, according to an Orange County License and Certificate of Marriage.

Prosecutors said the woman has stopped cooperating with authorities in their felony case against Ellis and his ex-fiancée, Michelle Hecker, who are accused of sexually assaulting her in 2007 and 2008.

It's not clear how the marriage would affect a jury's decision, but Deputy Dist. Atty. Drew Haughton said the circumstances are certainly unusual in a sexual assault case like statutory rape.

"I typically saw weddings more in the context where there was a pregnancy involved and they wanted to keep the family together," Haughton said, adding that Ellis and his wife aren't expecting as far as he knows. "I don't think I've ever seen one with this large an age difference."

Hecker and Ellis were charged with six felonies, ranging from lewd acts on a child to unlawful sexual intercourse, though Hecker was only accused of being an accomplice to the relationship.

The woman's testimony was key to prosecutors arguing that Hecker fostered the relationship between her and Hecker's then-fiancée.

Authorities said Hecker met the woman — then an aspiring model — at an equestrian center and said Ellis could photograph her.

Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Hecker on March 25. Ellis' attorney was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

For at least eight months between 2007 and 2008, Ellis allegedly carried on a sexual relationship with the then-minor before a relative complained to police.

Despite the marriage and uncooperative victim, Haughton remains confident in the case.

"I think whether they're married or not, he committed a crime because we have evidence to believe he had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old female," Haughton said.

Because the woman who married Ellis could have been the victim of a crime, the Daily Pilot has decided to withhold her name.

Ellis is due back in court for a pre-trial hearing May 20. He faces up to seven years in prison, if convicted.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World