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D.P. v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 14, 2017

D.P., Appellant-Respondent,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Petitioner

         Appeal from the Wabash Circuit Court The Honorable Robert R. McCallen, II, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 85C01-1610-JD-52

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General, Katherine Cooper Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Vaidik, Chief Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] D.P. appeals his adjudication as a juvenile delinquent based on the juvenile court's finding that he committed an act that would be Level 4 felony child molesting if committed by an adult. He argues that the evidence is insufficient. Based on the evidence presented at the fact-finding hearing, we do not believe that a reasonable factfinder could find beyond a reasonable doubt that D.P. touched or fondled the victim with the intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires. We therefore find that the evidence is insufficient to support the true finding for Level 4 felony child molesting.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In August 2016, the Department of Child Services contacted the Wabash City Police Department about child-molesting allegations that four-year-old B.M. had recently made against ten-year-old D.P. B.M.'s father and D.P.'s mother lived together, and on the weekends B.M. would visit her father, which is where the molestations allegedly occurred. B.M. made the allegations during a videotaped interview at the Child Advocacy Center in Marion, Indiana. As D.P. acknowledges on appeal, B.M. made very specific and incriminating allegations against him in the videotaped interview, see Appellant's Br. p. 6, but this video was not admitted into evidence at the fact-finding hearing under our Protected Person Statute. See Ind. Code § 35-37-4-6.

         [¶3] In October 2016, the State filed a petition alleging that D.P. was a delinquent child for committing acts that would be Level 3 felony child molesting (sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct) and Level 4 felony child molesting (fondling or touching with intent to arouse or satisfy sexual desires) if committed by an adult.

         [¶4] A fact-finding hearing was held in December 2016. Four-year-old B.M. testified at the hearing. As the juvenile court later explained, B.M. was "very young" and testifying was "difficult" for her. Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 44. B.M. testified that, on one occasion, D.P. told B.M. to "come here." Tr. Vol. II p. 20. He then touched B.M. on her "hooha" and her "butt" with his "hand." Id. at 20-21; see also Ex. 1 & 2.[1] B.M. identified her "hooha" as the genital area on an anatomical drawing of a little girl by drawing a circle. See Tr. Vol. II pp.18-21; Ex. 1. B.M. had her clothes on at the time and did not feel the touching. Tr. Vol. II pp. 23, 26.[2]

         [¶5] The juvenile court found the Level 4 felony child molesting allegation true (but not the Level 3 felony) and adjudicated D.P. a delinquent child. The court held a dispositional hearing in February 2017 and ordered D.P. to serve ten days in a detention facility and placed him on probation for twelve months.

         [¶6] D.P. now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶7] D.P. contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the true finding for Level 4 felony child molesting. Though juvenile adjudications are not criminal matters, when the State petitions to have a child adjudicated delinquent for an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult, due process requires the State to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. S.M. v. State, 74 N.E.3d 250, 253 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). When reviewing whether the State's evidence was sufficient to meet its burden, our standard is familiar. Id. We view the facts and the reasonable inferences from them in the light most favorable to the true finding. Id. We neither reweigh the evidence nor re-evaluate witness credibility. Id. We will affirm unless no reasonable fact-finder could have found the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. We may affirm the judgment even if it is supported by only the uncorroborated testimony of the victim. Id.

         [¶8] To sustain the true finding that D.P. committed an act that would constitute Level 4 felony child molesting if committed by an adult, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that D.P., with a child under fourteen years of age (B.M.), performed or submitted to fondling or touching with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either B.M. or himself. Ind. Code ยง 35-42-4-3(b); Appellant's App. Vol. II pp. 46-47. We find that on this sparse record, the State ...


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