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Carter v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 30, 2016

Sauntio Carter, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Christina Klineman, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G17-1508-F6-30930

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Valerie K. Boots Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Lyubov Gore Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Sauntio A. Carter (Carter), appeals his conviction for battery resulting in bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor, Ind. Code § 35-42-2-1(b)(1), (c).

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] Carter raises two issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following single issue: Whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain Carter's conviction for battery resulting in bodily injury.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

         [¶4] On August 24, 2015, Carter observed that his fourteen-year-old daughter, M.C., had altered her eyebrows. When Carter questioned M.C. about this, she initially denied that she had made any changes to herself. However, M.C. eventually admitted the truth. As punishment for her dishonesty, Carter confiscated M.C.'s cellphone. After taking possession of M.C.'s cellphone, Carter checked his daughter's social media accounts and was very upset by what he discovered. M.C. had posted photographs of herself wearing only "her panty and bra, " and "she was talking to boys, [trying to] . . . like actually offer herself to them." (Tr. p. 33). In conjunction with these photographs, M.C. had published their address, as well as her grandmother's address, online.

         [¶5] The next day, August 25, 2015, M.C. woke up and readied herself for school while Carter was still asleep. Before walking out the door, M.C. retrieved her cellphone and grabbed a pair of Carter's shoes. When Carter awoke, he discovered that M.C. had taken her cellphone without permission. Carter walked to the bus stop, where he observed M.C. listening to music on her cellphone and wearing his shoes. Carter informed M.C. that she had disrespected him and that they needed to return home "to take [his] shoes off" because his feet are bigger "and she was looking like a clown." (Tr. p. 35).

         [¶6] Although M.C. resisted at first, she eventually heeded Carter's demands to walk home with him. On the way, Carter, who was still upset by the content of M.C.'s social media accounts, broke M.C.'s cellphone. M.C. threatened to run away, to which Carter responded by stating that he would call the police to bring her back. M.C. also responded that she would call the police over her broken phone. When they arrived home, there is no dispute that Carter determined that it was necessary to discipline M.C. However, Carter and M.C. offered varying accounts as to the extent and severity of the punishment.

         [¶7] According to Carter, when they arrived home, Carter instructed M.C. to start cleaning the apartment while he called his father to discuss M.C.'s behavior. While on the phone with his father, Carter was also "telling [M.C.] how she was doing me [sic] and how wrong she was what she was doing and I was telling her the consequences and I told her, that I was going to discipline [her] physically." (Tr. p. 36). Based on the fact that M.C. was fourteen years old, Carter determined that he was "going to discipline her [fourteen] times." (Tr. p. 36). Carter instructed M.C. "to bend over and touch the couch." (Tr. p. 36). Instead, Carter described that M.C. "jumped up off the couch and she raised her hand up at me." (Tr. p. 37). Still on the phone, Carter's father advised him to go take a shower before punishing M.C. so that he would be "level headed." (Tr. p. 37). Carter stated that after he showered, he spanked M.C. fourteen times with his belt.

         [¶8] On the other hand, according to M.C., as soon as they arrived home from the bus stop, Carter directed her "to take off my sweater and everything and my shoes that I had on and stuff. I still had on clothing and stuff and . . . he had told me, he was like bend over the couch." (Tr. p. 7). Carter started hitting her with his belt on her back, legs, and buttocks. She stated that he shoved her against a wall and pressed his forearm across her neck to the point that it was "hard to breathe in air." (Tr. p. 9). After hitting her again with the belt, Carter ordered her to clean the entire apartment. When M.C. finished cleaning, Carter asked her whether she wanted "the whooping now or later" and she "said later." (Tr. p. 10). Carter then showered. When he returned, Carter "hit [M.C.] a couple times" and then had a conversation with her "[a]bout stuff [she] should have did [sic]." (Tr. p. 10). After their conversation, Carter continued with "the rest of this whooping." (Tr. p. 11). Even though M.C. begged for a reprieve of "two second[s]" or "two minutes, " Carter told her to "take it like God did when they beat him." (Tr. p. 11). Also, at one point, M.C. stated that she had balled up her fist, and even though she claimed that she "wasn't going to hit him, " Carter saw it and smacked her across the face. (Tr. p. 13). M.C. stated that it hurt when Carter hit her with his belt "because he was hitting [her] with all his force." (Tr. p. 11).

         [¶9] M.C.'s younger brother was home at the time; however, he did not witness any of the punishment. When M.C. returned to school on August 26, 2016, she informed her guidance counselor that her "arm was hurting." (Tr. p. 17). The guidance counselor observed a bruise on M.C.'s shoulder and inquired as to what happened. After gleaning some details of the incident from M.C., the guidance counselor informed the school nurse about the situation and contacted the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). The nurse provided M.C. with ice packs to treat her pain. A DCS assessment worker arrived at the school and took photographs of bruises on M.C.'s body, which she opined to be the result of being hit with a belt. M.C. sustained bruises to her buttocks, inner and outer thigh, upper arm, forearm, and lower shoulder.

         [¶10] On August 31, 2015, the State filed an Information, charging Carter with Count I, strangulation, a Level 6 felony, I.C. § 35-42-2-9(b); and Count II, battery resulting in bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor, I.C. § 35-42-2-1(b)(1), (c). On October 14 and 21, 2015, the trial court conducted a bench trial. At the close of the evidence, the trial court entered a judgment of conviction for battery resulting in bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court found Carter not guilty of strangulation. Immediately thereafter, the trial court sentenced Carter to 114 days-i.e., his time already served with applicable credit time.

         [¶11] Carter now appeals. Additional facts will be ...


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