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Bennett v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

April 2, 2019

Nathaniel Bennett, Appellant (Defendant below),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).

          Argued: November 20, 2018

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court No. 49G04-1509-F4-34803 The Honorable Lisa Borges, Judge.

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-CR-71

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caroline G. Templeton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          OPINION

          DAVID, JUSTICE.

         At issue in this case is whether there is sufficient evidence that Bennett violated a Community Corrections placement condition by possessing obsence matter. Because the trial court made factual findings that negate one part of the statutory definition required to prove the violation, we reverse and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In 2016, Defendant, Nathaniel Bennett, pled guilty to Level 4 felony sexual misconduct with a minor and was sentenced to seven years on community corrections, with three years suspended to sex offender probation. As a condition of Bennett's placement in community corrections, he was prohibited from possessing obscene matter as defined by Indiana Code § 35-49-2-1.

         In 2017, community corrections officers performed a compliance check at Bennett's home. There they found a cell phone containing pictures of Bennett as well as pictures of a naked woman and videos with a man and a woman engaging in sexual intercourse. Thereafter, the State filed a notice of a community corrections violation alleging that Bennett had possessed obscene matter.

         At an evidentiary hearing, the State submitted copies of the allegedly obscene photos and video from Bennett's phone. After the arguments of counsel, the trial court stated in relevant part:

I'm convinced by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant was possessing the phone and that he knew what was on it. So having done -- having made that finding, I do believe the State's met their burden and would find the Defendant in violation.

(Tr. 76.) Then approximately two weeks later, at the sentencing hearing, the court reviewed the definition of obscene matter and stated:

I don't find that paragraph two is necessarily met because apparently it was between consenting people. But the Defendant knew well what he was doing. And the only reason to take those kind of pictures is to review them later. There's no other reason. So you know, clearly he was a ...

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