COA: Evidence sufficient to sustain sexual battery conviction

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A man who groped a woman in a dormitory restroom was unable to get his felony conviction overturned after the Court of Appeals of Indiana found the evidence was sufficient to show he physically restrained the woman while touching her without her consent.

While staying with a friend, Jerald Allen Hutton III used the women’s restroom in a dormitory at the University of Indianapolis. There he encountered a female student who was washing her hands.

Hutton walked up behind the student, grabbed her by the hips and pulled her into him, then moved his hands to her pubic region and pressed her against the sink.

The victim, C.J., was eventually able to free herself. She notified the resident assistant about the incident and gave a statement to a detective. When shown a photograph of Hutton, she identified him as her assailant.

Hutton was convicted of sexual battery as a level 6 felony and battery as a Class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 545 days, with 180 days served on home detention and 351 suspended to probation. Also, he was ordered to register as a sex offender.

On appeal, Hutton asserted he did not commit sexual battery as defined in Indiana Code § 35-42-4-8(a). He conceded the evidence was sufficient to show his intent, but he maintained the state did not introduce evidence that he compelled the victim to submit to the touching by force or threat of force.

The Court of Appeals was not convinced.

“This argument fails because C.J. testified that Hutton grabbed her by the hips and held her in place by using his body to pin her against the restroom sink,” Judge Derek Molter wrote for the appellate court. “She also testified she was unable to initially free herself from Hutton’s grasp. While C.J. was being restrained, Hutton touched her pubic area without her consent, and it was only after he groped her that she was able to break free.”

Next, Hutton pointed to a line of precedent and advanced the argument that unwanted touching is not sufficient to satisfy the sexual battery statute’s force element. In particular, he cited, Scott-Gordon v. State, 579 N.E.2d 602 (Ind. 1991), Perry v. State, 962 N.E.2d 154 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), and McCarter v. State, 961 N.E.2d 43 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).

But the appellate panel determined those cases did not apply to Hutton’s case.

“The key distinction is that before grabbing C.J.’s pubic area, Hutton pinned her to the sink, using force to make her submit to his unwanted touching,” Molter wrote. “There was no such force to neutralize resistance in the cases on which Hutton relies.”

Finally, the COA rejected Hutton’s request to overturn his conviction based on the incredible dubiosity rule.

The case is Jerald Allen Hutton III v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2524.

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