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COA finds church member’s lack of brotherly love not sufficient to uphold conviction

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A criminal conviction that resulted from church member’s demand for quiet during a worship service has been overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s conviction of Paul R. Semenick for criminal trespass, as a Class A misdemeanor. Semenick, a long-time member of Lakeview Christian Church, was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct following a scuffle at a Sunday worship service.

The incident began when Semenick told a volunteer greeter and other church members they were speaking too loudly. When one of the congregants placed his hand on Semenick’s shoulder to apologize, Semenick told him to “get your hand off me.” The volunteer greeter then brought into the sanctuary an off-duty police officer, Sgt. John Dierdorf, who patrols the church’s parking lot during services.

Although Semenick was seated and participating in the worship, the police sergeant asked him to leave. Semenick exited into the main hallway but did not leave the building and “kept on ranting,” referring to the police officer as a “rent-a-cop,” until he was arrested.

At the conclusion of the trial, Semenick was acquitted of disorderly conduct but convicted of criminal trespass. The trial court sentenced him to 365 days of imprisonment, suspending 363 days and ordering him to stay away from Lakeview.

Semenick appealed.

In reversing the trial court’s ruling in Paul R. Semenick v. State of Indiana, 49A02-111-CR-1035, the Court of Appeals ruled the state failed in its burden to prove material elements of criminal trespass because it did not provide evidence that disavowed Semenick’s contractual interest in being on the property and it did not delineate Dierdorf’s authority.  

Judge Paul Mathias dissented, concluding the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury’s conviction.

“Under the applicable standard of review for claims challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a jury verdict, I conclude that the state presented sufficient evidence that Sgt. Dierdorf was an agent of the Church and that Mr. Semenick had no contractual interest in Church premises,” Mathias wrote. “And even if Mr. Semenick had some limited right to be on the Church premises, I believe his disruptive behavior terminated that limited right.”
 

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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