Vanderburgh Co. man loses appeal of sexual misconduct convictions, sentence

A southern Indiana man sentenced to 15 years after being convicted of sexual misconduct with two teenage girls failed to find relief at the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Jon Norton Jr. was convicted of Level 4 felony sexual misconduct with a minor and three counts of Level 5 felony sexual misconduct with a minor after he engaged in sexual relations with and inappropriately touched two 14-year-old girls related to his significant other.

Days before his jury trial was set to begin, Norton issued a subpoena to Deaconess Cross Pointe, a mental health facility, seeking the mental health records of one of the victims, A.G. However, the court denied Norton access to the records following an in camera review, concluding they were not related to the event at question.

At some point, one of the jurors advised the trial court that he recognized the second victim, A.J., as a friend of his daughter’s, but that he had not seen the girl in two years. The juror said his recognition would not impact his ability to be impartial, and the court subsequently denied Norton’s motion to strike the juror. The same juror later reported that his stepbrother’s daughter – Norton’s ex-wife – was a spectator, but that he could continue to remain impartial.

The trial court’s decision to sustain an objection to Norton’s attempts to question A.J.’s mother about her child’s reputation for being dishonest was also raised on appeal.

Following trial, Norton was found guilty and given an aggregate 15-year sentence.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence and convictions in Jon L. Norton, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-872, finding, among other things, that excluding Norton from questioning A.J.’s mother about her dishonesty did not prevent him from eliciting testimony from three different witnesses about the child’s reputation for lying.

The appellate court similarly found that the Vanderburgh Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Norton access to the mental health records, finding that he could have obtained the same information from A.G. if she had been recalled as a witness. It further found no error with the trial court declining to strike the juror, pointing out that the trial court was in the best position to assess the juror’s integrity, honesty and ability to remain impartial. Further, the court noted Norton did not move to strike after the juror said there was a family relation in the courtroom.

Members of the appellate court ultimately concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions and that Norton’s sentence was not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and his character.

“With respect to the nature of the offenses, Norton twice engaged in sexual misconduct with two victims, A.J. and A.G., both of whom were related to Norton’s girlfriend. And A.G. considered Norton to be part of her family,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court. “As a result of the offenses against A.J., A.J. was ‘bullied’ by members of Norton’s family who attended the same school as A.J., and she had to attend counseling. Norton has not presented compelling evidence portraying the nature of the offenses in a positive light.”

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