Text reading ‘u DONT have to testify’ properly admitted, COA rules

A man convicted of battery resulting in bodily injury and invasion of privacy after he assaulted a woman failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that an incriminating text he sent the victim was improperly admitted.

Randy Rogers’ conviction of the misdemeanor counts was affirmed Tuesday in Randy Rogers v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-3023. According to the record, Sierra Johnson and her best friend, Jasmine Arnold, returned from a club to Arnold’s apartment that she shared with Rogers, after which Rogers assaulted Johnson, causing her minor injuries.

After he was charged with four counts, prosecutors ultimately dropped a misdemeanor domestic violence count and a count of Level 6 felony attempted obstruction of justice, and Rogers was convicted of the battery and invasion of privacy counts.

At his trial, defense counsel initially objected to a text Rogers had sent to Johnson while she was meeting with a victim advocate, and while a no-contact order was in place. In the text, Rogers apologized, recounted their many-year friendship, and wrote, “We can talk about everything outside of court. But u DON[’]T have to testify. U know I love u like a little sister, and things got out of control that night. Do u want me to go to jail? I mean I did 3 weeks already. But if I’m convicted I’m facing jail. This is serious.”

Rogers’ counsel initially objected to the admission of the text, arguing its foundation had not established, but on the record at sentencing, Rogers’ counsel said he no longer contested the authenticity of the text.

“We note that while Rogers’s counsel initially objected to the admission of the exhibit, he later stated ‘the Court has already found identity for the purposes of the text messages we’re no longer contesting that he sent this beyond a reasonable doubt at this time,’” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel. “Rogers has waived this issue, and in any event we could not say that reversal is warranted.

“The record reveals that Johnson testified she knew Rogers for about ten or eleven years and received a text from him while there was a no contact order in place and while she was in the victim advocate’s room. When showed (the text), Johnson indicated that the exhibit constituted “[t]exts from Randy” and that they accurately reflected the text messages she received…,” Brown wrote. “Johnson also testified that she received the messages via text from Randy on her phone, that he is the only Randy she has in her phone, that she knows the defendant by Randy, and that if she were receiving text messages from Randy it would be from the defendant.

“The content of the text messages referred to the relationship between Rogers and Johnson, mentioned Jasmine, who Rogers testified he lived with, mentioned the night of the offense, included an apology, informed Johnson that she did not have to testify, and referenced the prospect of jail time,” Brown continued. “Under the circumstances, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence.”

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