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Seal v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 18, 2018

Andrew Seal, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Grant W. Hawkins, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G05-1610-F1-42034

          Attorney for Appellant Michael R. Fisher Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana, James B. Martin Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          CRONE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Andrew Seal appeals his conviction for committing level 1 felony child molesting against four-year-old S.P. He argues that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting his confession without independent evidence of the corpus delicti. Although he concedes that there is independent evidence that he committed level 4 felony child molesting by touching S.P.'s sex organ, he contends that the corpus delicti rule demands independent evidence of penetration of S.P.'s sex organ, which is the element that raises the offense to a higher felony level. He also argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction.

         [¶2] We conclude that the independent evidence that Seal committed the offense of child molesting satisfies the purpose of the corpus delicti rule such that independent evidence of penetration is unnecessary for the admission of his confession. As such, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting it. We also conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction. Therefore, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In 2014, Seal was hired as a teacher for the prekindergarten program at Daystar Childcare ("Daystar"), a ministry of Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis. From August 2015 through May 2016, four-year-old S.P. was assigned to Seal's classroom. In May 2016, while S.P.'s mother was putting S.P. in her car seat after dinner at a restaurant, S.P. told her mother about an incident with "Mr. Andy." Tr. Vol. 2 at 64. S.P. said that at naptime, Seal touched her vagina with his finger under her clothes. Id. at 59-60.

         [¶4] S.P.'s parents took her to their pediatrician, who advised them to call Riley Children's Hospital.[1] Id. at 65. S.P.'s parents also called Child Protective Services ("CPS"). CPS conducted a forensic interview with S.P. the week after she confided in her mother, but S.P. did not disclose any inappropriate touching. Id. at 66.

         [¶5] S.P.'s mother reported S.P.'s allegations to a Daystar co-director. Daystar informed the Indiana Department of Child Services ("DCS") and restricted Seal from returning to his classroom until "everything had been cleared" by DCS. Id. at 77. DCS personnel interviewed Seal regarding the incident with S.P. Seal stated that S.P. got up from her cot during naptime. When he instructed her to go back to her cot, she turned around, pulled her pants down, and "shook her bottom at him." Id. at 78. Seal went to S.P.'s cot, told her to lie down, pulled up her pants, covered her with her blanket, and gave her some books. Id.

         [¶6] On July 20, 2016, Seal was cleared to return to his classroom. In August, Seal reported to a Daystar co-director that he had unintentionally touched three-year-old J.B. inappropriately when she jumped on his lap. Id. at 80-81; State's Ex. 5. A Daystar co-director informed J.B.'s parents of the incident. In September, J.B. told her mother about another incident. She said that at naptime Seal touched her "on [her] vagina" through her clothes or on top of her covers with his fingers or hand. Tr. Vol. 2 at 16-17. She said that he had done it more than once. Id. at 17. J.B.'s parents reported Seal's conduct to Daystar and removed J.B. from Daystar's programs. Id. at 22. Daystar terminated Seal and reported the allegations to DCS. Id. at 86. Seal prepared a written statement providing accounts of five incidents with J.B., in which he denied that he had intentionally touched J.B. inappropriately. Id. at 87; State's Ex. 6.

         [¶7] In late September or early October of 2016, Seal's five-year-old daughter S.S. told her mother (Seal's wife) that Seal had inappropriately touched her when they were in his bed. Tr. Vol. 2 at 32-33. S.S. said that she got in bed with Seal, and he started tickling her arms and then her "pee-pee." Id. at 35. Then, he pulled down her pants and underwear and tickled her on top of her "pee-pee." Id. at 36. Seal told S.S. not to tell, but she later told her mother. When S.S.'s mother confronted Seal with the allegations, he admitted they were true.

         [¶8] Detective Genae Cook of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department investigated J.B.'s and S.S.'s allegations against Seal. Forensic interviews of J.B. and S.S. were conducted. During the investigation, Detective Cook learned of the earlier report regarding S.P. Detective Cook called S.P.'s parents and requested a follow-up forensic interview with S.P. Id. at 67. At this interview S.P. "made a disclosure." Id.

         [¶9] As part of the investigation, Detective Cook conducted a videotaped interview with Seal. Seal signed a written advisement and waiver of his Miranda rights, and the following conversation took place:

Q: So when you dealt with [S.P.], you said she just pulled her pa … pants down. So when you were watching her were you getting erections then? Did you start to feel it excite you?
A: Yeah.
Q: So when did you take a, take it to the next level?
A: Um, she, at one point wanted me to just like put my finger down there so I did.
Q: Okay. What do you mean put your finger down there?
A. She wanted …
Q: Tell me what you did?
A: Like I put my finger down there. She grabbed ahold of my finger and started rubbin' herself with my finger.
Q: So you started rubbin' her on her vagina then, did it become something that became somethin' between you and her at naptime or anything?
A: It … happened like three times.
Q: So when you were touching [S.P.] was it over the underwear or under the underwear?
A: Hers was under the underwear because she would pull her pants down.
Q: Okay, so would your finger go up between the labia?
A: Yeah.
Q: Would you (inaudible) go ...

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