Molester’s conviction, 50-year sentence affirmed on appeal

The conviction and 50-year sentence imposed on a man who molested a 3-year-old was affirmed Wednesday by an Indiana Court of Appeals panel, which rejected his arguments that a statement he made to officers was wrongly admitted and that his sentence was inappropriate.

Dustin Crabtree received the maximum sentence after a Ripley Circuit jury found him guilty of Level 1 felony child molesting last year. In addition to video of the victim’s forensic interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center, the jury also saw video of Crabtree’s statement to officers after he was told he failed a voluntary polygraph test. Crabtree told officers he awoke one night with the child inappropriately touching him with her hands and mouth.

Crabtree unsuccessfully moved to suppress the video, arguing that while he had been advised of his rights before he took the polygraph test, he also should have been advised of his rights under Miranda in his subsequent interview with state police investigators in Versailles. That argument likewise failed before the COA in Dustin B. Crabtree v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-2128, which found there was “no significant interruption of the interview between the polygraph process and the questioning by the other officers,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote.

The panel likewise turned away Crabtree’s argument that his right to remain silent was violated.

Here, Crabtree argues that he unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent when he asked: ‘I, I’d be willing to talk to you more, but is there anyway, maybe, we could do it another day?’ and ‘[ ] I appreciate you right now, but is there — I have a, a whole lot to think about. Is, is, is there a time we could schedule to talk later?’”

The panel noted that these remarks did not rise to the unequivocal expression of a Fifth Amendment right, an example of which was the defendant’s statement, “I’m done talking,” which led to suppression of statements collected afterward in Risinger v. State, 137 N.E. 3d 292, 299 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), trans. denied.

“We cannot say that Crabtree unambiguously asserted his right to remain silent. Accordingly, law enforcement did not violate Crabtree’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Crabtree has failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the officers at his trial,” Tavitas wrote. The panel likewise found that even if his comments were admitted in error, any such admission was harmless in light of the child victim’s testimony.

Finally, the panel found Crabtree’s sentence was not inappropriate based on the nature of the offense or his character, citing an abuse of a position of trust, allegations of numerous instances of sexual abuse and Crabtree’s criminal history and drug abuse.

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