from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Jeffrey L.
Sanford, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D03-1511-FC-9.
Attorney for Appellant Marielena Duerring South Bend, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General
Darden, Senior Judge.
of the Case
Appellant Mark Benner appeals his convictions of two counts
of child seduction. We affirm.
Benner presents one issue for our review, which we restate
as: whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain his
and Procedural History
P.A. was born in January 1996. She knew Benner and his family
through her sports activities-Benner's wife was her
volleyball coach in middle school, Benner's daughter was
a basketball teammate and friend, and Benner coached
P.A.'s summer league basketball team the summer after her
eighth grade year. During the relevant time period, Benner
had been coaching for more than two decades.
From a very young age, P.A. was interested in playing
basketball and was identified in the community as a very good
basketball player. Even before she was old enough to be on
the school team, she attempted to join their practices, and,
as soon as she was old enough, she joined the fourth grade
team at her school. She was often described as being
"very determined," "very dedicated,"
"very talented," a hard worker, focused, and a
"really good basketball player" with a heightened
ambition and drive greater than most of her peers. Tr. Vol.
2, pp. 89, 104, 75. P.A. looked up to her coaches and
explicitly followed their guidance and instructions and was
highly impressed with Benner's coaching ability.
Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, Benner served as an
assistant varsity coach for the girls basketball team at
Mishawaka High School. In 2010-2011, when P.A. was a
freshman, she played for both the junior varsity and the
varsity basketball teams and was considered an important
player at the varsity level. By that time, it was common
knowledge that P.A. was a very passionate and dedicated
basketball player who was always seeking to improve her
skills and excel in her sport. All of her coaches viewed her
as an integral component of the Mishawaka High School girls
basketball program, and Benner knew that her ultimate goal
was to obtain a scholarship to play college basketball.
With the aim of obtaining a college basketball scholarship,
P.A. did extra one- on-one workouts with Benner several times
a week during the summer of 2011 to improve her basketball
skills. Commencing her sophomore year, P.A. made the varsity
team and remained at that level throughout her high school
career. Benner served as the assistant varsity basketball
coach until he submitted his resignation in 2013 at the end
of P.A.'s junior year. Knowing P.A.'s intense
motivation to excel, Benner worked more with her and provided
her with more individual attention than he did with any other
player. Because of this concentrated one-on-one time
together, Benner developed a closer relationship with P.A.
than with other players on the team.
In January 2013, concern arose at the school regarding some
text messages that had been exchanged between Benner and P.A.
It was later determined that the texts were basketball
related, and no action was taken by the school against
Benner. However, in March of 2013, at the end of the
2012-2013 basketball season, Benner resigned as assistant
varsity coach. After submitting his letter of resignation,
Benner drove to P.A.'s home, picked her up, and showed
her his resignation letter. After P.A. read the letter, she
became saddened and cried, and it was at that point that
Benner kissed her. At that time, P.A. was seventeen and a
junior in high school, and Benner was forty-three. Benner
told P.A. that his resignation would not affect them working
together to get her into college and that he would continue
working with her on an individual basis.
In August 2013, before P.A.'s senior year of high school,
a sexual relationship began between Benner and P.A. Their
sexual activities included fondling, oral sex, and sexual
intercourse and continued through P.A.'s senior year.
P.A. graduated from Mishawaka High School in 2014. She then
attended Indiana University South Bend on a basketball
scholarship. Benner's sexual relationship with P.A.
continued until the spring of her freshman year of college.
Their relationship ended when, in March 2015, Benner
accidentally sent ...