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COA reverses juvenile's exploitation adjudication

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a juvenile’s adjudication for exploiting an endangered adult because the state didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the 17-year-old took advantage of the mentally retarded man.

A.H. was adjudicated for committing what would be exploitation of an endangered adult, a Class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult, for getting Robert Barnhart to write her two checks for loans. Barnhart was diagnosed with “mental retardation,” has a very low IQ, can’t read or write, and is legally blind. He receives assistance from a developmental disabilities provider.

At the recommendation of her cousin, A.H. went to Barnhart and convinced him to write her a check for $750 so A.H. could bail her husband out of jail. She filled out the top part of the check and Barnhart signed it. The check was never cashed but she used it to get $750 from Charlie Matthews. She then got a loan to repay that $750 borrowed from Matthews. A.H. also got Barnhart to give her $100 by check so she could go to Indiana Beach. She then exchanged the check with Matthews for the cash. She did repay $25 of that loan to Barnhart. A.H. was charged after the developmental disabilities provider found discrepancies in Barnhart’s checking account.

The juvenile court ordered A.H. to the Department of Correction until she was 21 unless the DOC released her sooner.

That adjudication was an error, the Court of Appeals ruled in A.H. v. State of Indiana, No. 37A04-1002-JV-50, because the state didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that A.H. recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally exerted unauthorized use of the property of an endangered person for her own profit or for the profit of another person.

The appellate court noted Barnhart agreed to give her the loans, was never threatened, and A.H. had begun to repay the only outstanding loan.

“While Barnhart may have diminished capacity and A.H. prevailed against Barnhart, we do not believe that the State met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that A.H.’s use of Barnhart’s property was unauthorized,” wrote Judge Elaine Brown. “While we do not make a finding as to A.H.’s credibility and do not approve or condone A.H.’s action in obtaining money from Barnhart, we simply do not find the evidence sufficient to meet the burden of proof required by the statute.”
 

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