Convictions, sentence affirmed for father who had sexual relationship with teenage daughter

A Harrison County father convicted of having a sexual relationship with his teenage daughter will remain in prison for the rest of his 111-year sentence after the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his 25 convictions and related sentence on Tuesday.

In Jessie Grimes v. State of Indiana, 31A01-1609-CR-2190, Jessie Grimes was convicted of more than a dozen counts of felony incest against his 14-year-old daughter, whom he forced to watch a pornographic movie in 2015. Grimes showed a similarly sexual video to his 10-year-old daughter, D.G., and told her not to tell anyone about it.

Then, believing S.G. needed to be punished one day, Grimes forced her to touch his penis and created a Facebook account under a fake name and used it to send S.G. photos of his penis. Grimes also took S.G. to purchase birth control, then began having sex with her on more than 18 occasions in November 2015. Grimes filmed the sexual encounters so S.G. could “see how (she) was like porn” and instructed her not to tell anyone.

However, S.G. told a school official about her sexual relationship with her father in February 2016, and she and her siblings were placed in the care of their paternal grandmother. Grimes was arrested and charged with more than 40 felony counts, including incest, sexual misconduct with a minor and dissemination of matter harmful to minors.

While in jail awaiting his trial, Grimes instructed his former girlfriend, Ashleigh Keck, to send a message from S.G.’s Facebook account to S.G.’s friends from church, Grimes’ stepsister, and S.G.’s former boyfriend. In the message, Keck, writing as S.G., said, among other things, “…My grandma is still not (believing me) but when they find the stuff I planted. My dad is (staying) in jail for a long time… .”  

Grimes’ stepsister disclosed the message to an attorney involved in the criminal proceeding, leading to his additional charge of Level 6 felony obstruction of justice. Grimes moved to sever that charge from the other counts against him, but the Harrison Superior Court denied the motion, as well as his motion to dismiss the incest and sexual misconduct with a minor charges for lack of specificity.

After a four-day trial, Grimes was convicted on 18 counts of Level 4 felony incest, two counts of Level 6 felony dissemination of matter harmful to minors and one count of Level 6 felony obstruction of justice and was sentenced to an aggregate of 111 years in the Department of Correction. He appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions and sentence on Tuesday.

Grimes returned to his lack of specificity argument on appeal, claiming the charging information in the original 20 counts of incest against him lacked specific facts to distinguish each charged count from the others. But Judge Paul Mathias wrote that Grimes failed to timely challenge the allegedly defective charging information, and, further, did not argue the state’s failure to include specific facts left him unable to prepare a defense. Thus, he did not establish fundamental error that would warrant reversal.

Grimes also argued the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever the obstruction of justice charge, but because Grimes’ defense at trial was that S.G. had fabricated the allegations against him, Mathias affirmed the trial court’s determination that the fake Facebook message was closely related to Grimes’ other charges.

Finally, Grimes raised multiple challenges to his 111-year sentence, and the appellate court agreed the trial court abused its discretion when it considered material elements of incest – here, S.G.’s age and the fact that the state proved 18 separate acts of sexual intercourse – as aggravating factors. But because the appellate panel believed the trial court would have imposed the same sentence absent those errors, it affirmed Grimes’ conviction.

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