COA upholds denial of additional child molesting charges to adult case

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Appellate judges have ruled that an Indiana trial court did not err by denying a motion to amend charging information in a Dubois County man’s adult criminal case after he was alleged to have committed numerous acts of child molesting before he was a legal adult.

The Indiana Court of Appeals, in a Tuesday interlocutory appeal, affirmed the Dubois Circuit Court’s decision that denied a motion to amend Anthony J. Neukam’s charging information when he was charged in adult criminal court with four counts of Level 3 felony child molesting, three counts of Level 3 felony rape, and two counts of Level 5 felony sexual misconduct with a minor.

At the time of the alleged crimes, Neukam would have been 18 and the victim would have been 13 or 14 years old.

Two years later after the initial charges were filed, an additional eight charges of child molesting against the same victim were filed in the juvenile court. After the Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion in D.P. v. State, 151 N.E.3d 1210 (Ind. 2020), the state successfully moved to dismiss Neukam’s juvenile delinquency case.

Then the state moved to amend the complaint in Neukam’s adult criminal case to add the eight child molesting charges.The state asserted that the trial court had jurisdiction over Neukam and the additional child molesting charges where he was considered an adult at the time of the proposed amendment.

It argued that the proposed eight charges “constitute[d] an ongoing pattern of alleged criminal activity [that] began prior to [Neukam’s] eighteenth (18th) birthday[.]” It further alleged that adding the additional charges would not prejudice Neukam because he had been aware of the allegation since the time of his juvenile delinquency case.

The trial court ultimately denied the motion “due to the age of [Neukam] at the time of the alleged offenses to be added to the charging information… ,” It also granted a motion requesting that the adult criminal court certify its order and stay the proceedings.

In answering “a question left unanswered” by the Indiana Supreme Court in D.P., the Court of Appeals sought to resolve whether under relevant statutes, an adult criminal court has jurisdiction over child molesting allegations that were alleged to have occurred when an individual was under 18 but is now older than 21. That depends on jurisdiction, the COA concluded.

“In this appeal, we are faced with such vagaries and confusion due to the juvenile statutory law, or lack thereof. We agree with Neukam that the current juvenile statutory scheme set forth by our legislature does not explicitly provide for the State’s proposed action of amending the charging information in Neukam’s adult criminal case to add eight additional child molesting charges that were alleged to have occurred when he was under the age of eighteen,” Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote.

The COA concluded that it didn’t need to decide whether a circuit court’s jurisdiction in “all criminal matters” would include jurisdiction for allegations of delinquent acts like those charged against Neukam.

“Even assuming that a circuit court, as the adult criminal court was here, had subject matter jurisdiction for allegations of delinquent acts of child molesting such as the ones that are specifically involved in this case, any such jurisdiction would be subject to the restrictions imposed by our legislature,” it wrote.

Thus, it found that the adult criminal court could not grant the State’s motion to amend because it would not, based on the allegations, have had the necessary jurisdiction over them.

“Until that time when the legislature provides an adult criminal court with jurisdiction over such a situation (as in Neukam’s case), we cannot interpret the existing statutes to fill that void,” the COA concluded.

The case is State of Indiana v. Anthony J. Neukam, 20A-CR-2006.

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