Suggestive cartoons didn’t violate man’s probation against obscene videos, COA rules

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The state of Indiana failed to prove that watching sexually suggestive anime cartoons violated an Elkhart County man’s probation, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has ruled.

Michael Bedtelyon was convicted of Level 4 felony sexual misconduct with a minor for criminal acts he committed with a 14-year-old girl he met on a dating app.

After serving part of his eight-year sentence for that crime, Bedtelyon was released on probation. As part of the terms of his probation, Bedtelyon was “prohibited from accessing, viewing, or using internet websites and computer applications that depict obscene matter as defined by IC 35-49-2-1.”

But Bedtelyon got in trouble with his probation officer after it was revealed that he had viewed several anime videos on YouTube that the officer determined were obscene and in violation of his probation.

The titles, which were concerning to the probation officer, included: “My Mother and Sister Pretend to Be Expecting My Babies After I Lost My Memory,” “I Seduced My Cousin and Let Him Do Everything He Wanted” and “I am the Seventh of Sextuplet Girls and I Am a Boy.”

The Elkhart Superior Court agreed the videos were in violation of Bedtelyon’s probation and revoked four years of his previously suspended sentence. But the Court of Appeals disagreed in Michael Bedtelyon v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-1952, reversing on grounds that the state failed to provide evidence to prove the videos depicted or described sexual conduct as defined by statute.

“The videos were not admitted into evidence, and we cannot determine that the court actually viewed them,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote for the appellate court. “Instead, the court relied on the testimony of Bedtelyon’s therapist and probation officer who watched the videos and obliquely described the content.

“Their testimony reveals that the cartoons feature ‘provocatively dressed,’ though never naked, women. The animated characters all experience incestuous attraction,” Weissmann continued. “Overall, the evidence suggests that these videos might have erotic themes, are erotic in tone, and describe erotic feelings. But the State did not present evidence that sexual conduct as defined by statute was depicted or described, rather than merely implied.”

The COA found that the state’s arguments were conclusory in “broadly citing the probation officer’s testimony of the sexually suggestive topics in the videos… .”

Concluding that it could not “infer that sexual conduct occurred from such a slim record,” the COA reversed and remanded, concluding the trial court abused its discretion in finding a violation and revoking four years of Bedtelyon’s suspended sentence.

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