COA adjusts sentence for child molestation

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a defendant's convictions of child molestation and child exploitation, but it adjusted his sentence after finding a mathematical error by the trial court.

In Roy Bennett v. State of Indiana, No. 79A05-0705-CR-240, Bennett appealed his convictions and sentence for two counts of Class D felony child exploitation and three counts of Class C felony child molestation. Bennett's adopted daughter accused him of sexually molesting her and police searched Bennett's home, finding several computer discs containing pornographic movies. His daughter later recanted her story but then renewed her allegations. A week before his trial was to begin, Bennett fled to Mississippi and assumed a new identity. He was later found and returned to Indiana for trial.

On appeal, Bennett argued the trial court erred by allowing evidence of his failure to appear for trial, the investigation to locate him, and the discovery of his residing in Mississippi under an assumed identity. He cited Dill v. State, 741 N.E.2d 1230 (Ind. 2001) to support his argument that evidence should be excluded because he didn't flee immediately from the scene of the crime or to avoid immediate apprehension.

Bennett is wrong in his understanding of Dill, and the Indiana Supreme Court held in the decision that flight and its related conduct may be considered by a jury in determining a defendant's guilt, wrote Senior Judge George Hoffman.

Eric Johnson of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was allowed to testify during trial about Bennett's activities in Mississippi. Despite Bennett's argument the evidence of his flight and assumed identity isn't allowed under Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b), it is admissible because it provides evidence of the charged offenses. Evidence simply to show a person commits crimes, but not the specific crimes for which the defendant is on trial, is to be excluded under 404(b).

Bennett also argued his three convictions of felony child molestation violated the double jeopardy provisions of the Indiana Constitution. He claimed evidence used to support one count of child molestation was used by the jury to convict him of another count. His daughter testified about a specific molestation incident that occurred in the evening of April 2, 2003, which was charged as Count XX; Count V alleged that he committed fondling or touching against his daughter sometime between 1998 and 2003, on which he the jury convicted him. The time frame of Count XX falls within the same time frame of Count V, so Bennett failed to prove the jury used the same evidentiary facts to establish the essential elements of more than one offense, wrote Senior Judge Hoffman.

The appellate court affirmed Bennett's sentence wasn't inappropriate and adjusted it, finding the trial court incorrectly tallied Bennett's aggregate sentence. The trial court sentenced him to a term of two years for each child exploitation conviction, a term of seven years for two of the child molestation convictions, and a term of six years for the third child molestation conviction; the trial court ordered he serve 20 years executed with five years suspended to probation, but his sentence should be 20 years executed with four years suspended to probation, wrote Senior Judge Hoffman.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.