from the Ripley Circuit Court The Honorable Ryan J. King,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 69C01-1601-F4-2
Attorney for Appellant Leanna Weissmann Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana, Ellen H. Meilaender Supervising Deputy Attorney
General Andrew Kobe Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis,
Robert Lee Laird ("Laird") was convicted in Ripley
Circuit Court of Level 4 felony child molesting and sentenced
to ten years of incarceration. Laird appeals and presents one
issue, which we restate as whether the trial court erred by
admitting evidence regarding the search history found on
and Procedural History
On December 25, 2015, twelve-year-old C.L. went to spend the
latter part of Christmas Day with his father, having spent
the earlier part of the holiday with his mother. Laird is
C.L.'s uncle, the twin brother of C.L.'s father, and
was also at C.L.'s father's house that evening. C.L.
had received a new iPad as a gift that day and sat on the
couch close to his uncle Laird while they both played a game
on the iPad. As they sat on the couch, Laird rubbed his pinky
finger on C.L.'s penis over his clothing. C.L. initially
thought Laird had done this accidentally, but when Laird kept
touching him, he knew that it was improper. C.L. told his
older sister about the incident but did not tell his father
at that time.
Later that evening, Laird invited C.L. to sleep in a twin bed
with him. When C.L. lay down with his uncle, Laird put his
arms around the boy and slowly moved his hands down until he
touched C.L.'s penis over his clothes. C.L. repositioned
himself to get away from Laird's hand. Laird then took
C.L.'s hand and placed it under his clothes and on his
penis. C.L. stated that he needed to get a drink of water and
got up and left the bed. But instead of getting a drink, he
again told his older sister, who told him that they needed to
tell their father about what had happened. C.L. told his
father, who then ordered his brother to leave the house. C.L.
also sent a text message to his mother, telling her that she
needed to contact him. C.L.'s mother eventually came and
got her son and took him back to her home. C.L.'s parents
called the police to report the incident.
During the course of the investigation, the police
interviewed Laird twice. At the first interview, Laird
claimed that C.L. was not innocent, stating that the boy had
been playing with a toy lightsaber and pretending it was an
erect penis. He also stated that C.L. had attempted to
embarrass his sister while she was on the phone by eating a
banana and being "provocative" with the banana. Tr.
Vol. 3. pp. 44-45. Although Laird admitted that he rubbed
C.L.'s belly while they were in bed, he denied having
ever touched C.L.'s penis or making C.L. touch his penis.
During a second interview, Laird again denied having touched
C.L. improperly or having C.L. touch him improperly. He did
state, however, that if he did touch C.L. inappropriately, it
would have been accidental. During the police interview,
Laird admitted that he was attracted to younger males, or as
he put it, "younger dudes." Tr. Vol. 3, p. 89. He
also responded positively when asked if he found "young
teens sexually attractive." Id. at 90. But he
later backtracked and claimed to be attracted only to
"of age teens." Id. at 92.
The police searched Laird's computer. On a
password-protected account with Laird's name, the police
found an internet search history that included searches for
"naked twelve year old boy, " "nude twelve
year old boy, " "young boy giving his first
handjob, " "young boy giving a handjob, " and
"boys first handjob fast cum, " in addition to
other searches for naked young boys' penises, father-son
sex acts, and sex acts between men and boys. Appellant's
App. Vol. 2, pp. 75-103.
On January 28, 2016, the State charged Laird with one count
of Level 4 felony child molesting. Prior to trial, the State
filed a notice of intent to introduce evidence under Evidence
Rule 404(b) regarding the following: (1) Laird's internet
search history from December 12, 2015 showing that Laird
searched for the terms "naked twelve year old boy"
and "nude twelve year old boy"; (2) Laird's
internet search history from December 22, 2015 showing that
Laird searched for the terms "young boy giving his first
handjob, " "young boy giving a handjob, " and
"boys first handjob fast cum"; (3) Laird's 2016
conviction for dissemination of matter harmful to minors in
which the victim was his underage niece; and (4) an incident
in 1999 in which a nine-year-old boy alleged that Laird
placed touched the child's genitals while in a hotel hot
Laird filed a motion seeking to exclude this evidence. The
trial court held a hearing on these evidentiary matters on
April 15, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial
court ruled that only the evidence of the searches on
December 22, 2015, which was only three days before the
incident with C.L., would be admissible; the court ruled that
evidence regarding the other internet searches and prior
incidents would be inadmissible.
A jury trial was held on April 18-20, 2017. During the
State's opening statement, the prosecuting attorney
mentioned Laird's internet searches on December 22, 2015.
Laird's counsel objected, and the following exchange
between the trial court and defense counsel took place:
[Defense]: Just objecting for the record, that I don't
think the evidence is going to show this and that it's
inappropriate for Opening Statement, just objecting for the
THE COURT: Well, the record will reflect that and I think
it's already been ruled upon in preliminary, I
haven't heard any reason to be contrary to that ruling.
Tr. Vol. 2, p. 94.
Indiana State Police Detective Sergeant Christopher Cecil
testified that he searched Laird's computer and found the
search history that included searches for the terms
"young boy giving his first handjob, " "young
boy giving a handjob, " and "boy's first
handjob fast cum, " all on December 22, 2015.
Id. at 132-33. Laird made no objection to this
testimony. See id.
Immediately prior to the State's closing argument,
Laird's counsel informed the trial court, "I just
want the record to reflect the continuing objection to the
three google search terms that I objected to in [the
prosecuting attorney]'s opening statement so that I'm
not interrupting in, during his closing argument."
Id. at 156. The prosecuting attorney responded,
"And I think for the record, Judge, [defense counsel]
has objected throughout the preliminary proceedings in
regards to the use of those, he objected in opening and I
certainly understood his intentions for that objection and
they continue throughout the trial." Id. The