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COA reverses former principal’s conviction for failing to immediately report student’s alleged rape

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A split Indiana Court of Appeals decided Wednesday that former Muncie Central High School principal Christopher Smith’s Class B misdemeanor conviction for failure to immediately report child abuse or neglect should be tossed out.

In November 2010, 16-year-old high school student G.G. reported to school officials that she had been raped in a bathroom by 16-year-old student S.M. Smith and other school leaders decided to investigate the claim before alerting police or the Department of Child Services because G.G. had allegedly previously faked a seizure and they did not want to ruin S.M.’s reputation.

The school immediately called G.G.’s guardian Youth Opportunity Center, as G.G. was placed there years earlier by DCS, so they could get consent for medical treatment. Smith believed by contacting YOC, DCS would also be notified. G.G. was taken to the hospital and evidence showed sexual contact. Smith called DCS approximately four hours after learning about the incident and told the agency he wasn’t sure if he was reporting abuse.

S.M. initially denied the claim, then said the sex was consensual, but eventually confessed to raping the teen.

Police initially investigated Smith for obstruction of justice, but later charged him with failure to immediately report child abuse or neglect. He was convicted as charged and on appeal argued that he and the other administrators involved didn’t think the incident involved child abuse since it was between two teenagers.

Judges Elaine Brown and L. Mark Bailey reversed in Christopher Smith v. State of Indiana, 18A02-1204-CR-331, pointing to evidence that Smith had another administrator contact YOC, which immediately contacted DCS. They also found that a reasonable investigation into the claim made in good faith of such an allegation before making the report is not improper and doesn’t deprive Smith of statutory immunity.

Judge Nancy Vaidik argued in her dissent that Smith had reason to believe G.G. was a victim of child abuse and failed to immediately report it. She didn’t accept Smith’s claim he notified DCS immediately by virtue of the call to the YOC or the majority’s decision that permits verification of a child’s allegations of abuse before making a report.

“I believe such a verification process is contrary to statute and, if permitted, may have the highly undesirable result of suppressing or deterring reports of abuse,” she wrote.

 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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