Appeals court upholds molester’s conviction, sentence

A child molester obtained no relief Friday in his appeal that challenged everything from the seating of jurors to the nine-year executed sentence imposed on him after he was convicted of sex crimes against an 8-year-old girl.

Cody Reynolds was convicted of Level 4 felony child molesting and Level 6 felony vicarious sexual gratification by an Allen County jury whose verdict and sentence were upheld in all respects by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Reynolds was arrested after his victim told her mother that Reynolds had openly masturbated in front of her and had her play a “game” in which she closed her eyes and ultimately placed her hand on his penis.

The jury heard evidence from a police officer and a forensic interviewer who had talked with the victim, as well as testimony from the victim herself. Reynolds challenged admission of the forensic interview evidence along with the victim’s in-person testimony as an abuse of discretion. He also attacked the sufficiency of the evidence against him.

“… (T)he Rules of Evidence do not otherwise support the admission of the recorded forensic interview into evidence, and admission of the recording into evidence along with (the victim’s) live testimony contravenes the Indiana Supreme Court’s holding in (Tyler v. State, 903 N.E.2d 463 (Ind. 2009)),” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote. “But our analysis does not end there. The admission of evidence is subject to a harmless error analysis.”

Because the evidence was merely cumulative, the panel found it was insignificant and did not amount to reversible error. Likewise, it found the evidence sufficient to support the jury’s verdict.

Reynolds also in his appeal challenged the seating of several jurors he claimed were biased against him because his counsel asked whether they could be impartial if he aggressively questioned the child on the stand. Some potential jurors qualified their answers after Reynolds’ trial counsel said about his potential questioning, “I don’t like people who lie.”

But the trial court denied Reynolds’ motion to strike several jurors from that final round for cause on this issue because he had run out of peremptory challenges. The appeals panel further noted each of the jurors ultimately said they could be impartial.

“In any event, the transcript of counsel’s cross-examination of (the victim) and the State’s other witnesses reveals what appears to be normal cross-examination, and counsel did not object to the trial court at any point during the trial that he was limited or hampered in any manner during questioning. Cody has failed to demonstrate an abuse of discretion,” the panel held.

Finally, the panel rejected Reynolds’ request that his sentence of 11 years with nine years executed in the Department of Correction be reduced to six years with three executed.

“While the criminal act of child molesting as a Level 4 felony may have occurred over a short span of time, however, the evidence established that his act was part of a months-long series of prior acts of sexual misconduct …,” Darden wrote. “Cody had ample opportunity to reconsider his criminal conduct but chose to continue. Further, his acts escalated in severity over time … .”

The panel further noted the victim has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and displays “a great amount of hostility, anger, irritability, and fear. … There is nothing about the nature of his criminal behavior, and the consequences thereof, that convinces the Court that Cody’s sentence is inappropriate.”

The panel also found little mitigation in Reynolds’ argument that he had a steady employment history prior to his conviction and that his sentence would create an undue hardship on his family. In a footnote, the court wrote, “A reduction in household income may or may not create an undue hardship. On the other hand, the protection of minor siblings by parents and society is a factor that the trial court and this Court must consider and balance.”

The case is Cody E. Reynolds v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-880.

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