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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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