Man’s conviction for harassing DCS case manager stands

A man convicted of harassing his Department of Child Services case manager to the point that she quit her job and moved to another county lost an appeal of his conviction Thursday, failing to convince the appellate court that the offense didn’t occur in Indiana.

When the Department of Child Services opened a case in Marion County involving Christopher Peacock and the children in his care, case manager Narea Okpala was assigned to the case. The two exchanged cell phone numbers to communicate — Peacock providing two numbers and Okpala providing the number to her work mobile phone. Both lived in Marion County.

Upon a judge’s ruling in the child in need of services case, Peacock showed his displeasure by harassing Okpala with numerous threatening text messages and voice mails. In the messages, Peacock complained about the outcome of the CHINS case, accusing Okpala of “playing god” and threatening to hang members of her family that he had “under [his] surveillance.”

Peacock also used racial slurs and threatened to kill Okpala, saying he had a tracking device on her car and that he knew where she lived. Okpala immediately reported Peacock’s communications to law enforcement in Marion County, as well as to her supervisors. Peacock later admitted to a social worker that he had sent the messages.

Although the case was transferred to another case manager, lingering fears of the threats pushed Okpala to quit her job and move outside of Marion County. Peacock was later charged with Class B misdemeanor harassment and a jury found him guilty.

In Christopher Allen Peacock v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2654, Peacock on appeal argued that the state failed to prove that he committed his offense in Indiana, and his conviction must therefore be reversed in the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals found it was undisputed both Peacock and Okpala lived in Marion county at the time of the offense, and that the messages were sent and received in Indiana. It further found Peacock waived his argument that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Marion County was the proper venue for the case, noting that the state sufficiently proved it was.

Lastly, the appellate court found that Marion Superior Court did not err in failing to instruct the jury on territorial jurisdiction and venue.

“During the trial, the State presented sufficient evidence, through witness testimony, that the harassment was committed in Marion County, Indiana. By contrast, Peacock did not raise or contest jurisdiction or venue before or during trial. There was not a scintilla of evidence presented that the offense could have been committed in a different county or state,” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote for the court. “Under the facts of this case, a failure to instruct the jury on jurisdiction and venue was not a substantial, blatant violation of Peacock’s right to due process and did not render a fair trial impossible.”

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