COA affirms mom’s convictions targeting stepmom

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a mother’s intimidation convictions Friday, writing that her children’s stepmother had lawful custody of the children, so the mother’s threats against the woman constituted intimidation based on a prior lawful act.

After Ray Griffin was awarded temporary custody of the two children he shared with Klinique Champion, J.G. and R.G., Champion began accusing Griffin and his wife, Sabrina Hoggard, of abuse, making 11 reports that were all unsubstantiated.

In October 2015, Champion sent violent messages to Hoggard, threatening to “blow (her) head off” and “plan (her) funeral.” Then, an administrator at the children’s school contacted Griffin after Champion appeared at the school and asked about the kids. Griffin sent Hoggard to pick the children up, and as she was driving to the school Hoggard saw Champion make a U-turn and pull up behind her. When the two women reached a red light, Champion jumped out of her car and began pounding on Hoggard’s window and yelling threats at her.

The next morning, Griffin chose to drive his children to school, and when they arrived in the parking lot R.G. saw his mother get out of another vehicle. Champion then grabbed R.G.’s coat and yelled for her and J.G. to get into her car. When Griffin tried to break R.G. free, Champion placed him in a headlock, sprayed Mace in his face, then fled on foot.

Then in November, Champion sent a text to Hoggard, writing that Hoggard needed to watch her four other children because “they might end up kidnapped and rapped (sic) and molested too.” Champion was arrested in Illinois, where she lived, and was charged on 11 counts, including intimidation as a Class A misdemeanor for the threatening texts she sent to Hoggard in October and intimidation as a Level 6 felony for the texts she sent to Hoggard in November.

Although she admitted at trial to sending the texts, Champion moved to dismiss the intimidation counts, arguing that the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Hoggard engaged in the prior lawful act of having lawful custody of Champion’s children, as required in the intimidation charges. But the Marion Superior Court denied the motion, writing that because Hoggard was legally married to Griffin, who had custody of the children, she also had lawful custody of them.

Champion was convicted on eight of the 11 charges, including intimidation. She appealed in Klinique J. Champion v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1604-CR-893, arguing insufficient evidence on the intimidation convictions. But in affirming her convictions, the Indiana Court of Appeals wrote Friday that Champion’s case was based on the incorrect notion that lawful custody and legal custody are the same thing.

The Indiana Supreme Court has defined “lawful custody” to mean any custody that is not unlawful, the appellate court wrote. Further, the court wrote that Hoggard had voluntarily assumed an in loco parentis relationship with J.G. and R.G. as their stepmother, which meant she agreed to assume parental status and discharge parental duties. Thus, the appellate court found that her relationship with the children was one of lawful custody.

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