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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

August 5, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
GEORGE R. WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.


David P. Fornsheii, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Michael Greer, for plaintiff-appellee

John J. Helbling, for defendant-appellant


{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, George R. Williams, appeals from his convictions and sentence in the Warren County Court of Common Pleas for three counts of gross sexual imposition, all felonies of the third degree. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand this matter to the trial court.

{¶ 2} Appellant was indicted on November 14, 2011 on five counts of gross sexual imposition, in violation of R.C. 2907.05(A)(4). The charges arose out of allegations that appellant had sexual contact with his step-granddaughters, K.R. and S.R., both of whom were less than 13 years of age at the time of the offenses. Specifically, the indictment alleged that between April 25, 2009 and February 2011, appellant touched K.R.'s breasts (count one) and vaginal area (count two), and S.R.'s vaginal area (count four) and buttocks (count five) while at the victims' residence on South River Street in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio. The indictment further alleged that between February 2011 and June 2011, appellant touched K.R.'s vaginal area at the victim's residence on Clark Street, in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio (count three).

{¶ 3} A bench trial was held in June 2012. At trial, the state presented testimony from the two victims, their mother, Christina B., one of their older sisters, D. B., and Detective Stephen Figliola and Officer Jordan Colvin of the City of Franklin Police Department. Christina testified that she has lived on Clark Street in Franklin, Ohio with her five daughters, "Nicki"(age18), D.B. (age 17), J.B. (age 15), K.R. (age 10), and S.R. (age 9) since February 17, 2011. Prior to residing on Clark Street, Christina and her daughters rented a home on South River Street in Franklin, Ohio. Christina testified that her mother, Peggy W., and appellant, to whom Peggy was married, lived with her from time to time at both locations, and there were instances when appellant was left home alone with her children. Christina stated that as of June 2011, neither Peggy nor appellant resided in Christina's home on Clark Street.

{¶ 4} Christina testified that on the evening of August 30, 2011, she and her two youngest daughters, S.R. and K.R., were downstairs in the living room when K.R. confessed that appellant had inappropriately touched her and S.R. Christina stated that K.R. was embarrassed and upset when she was explaining what happened to her, and that S.R., who was also upset and crying, had nodded her head during K. R.'s statement as if to say that the touching had also happened to her. Christina explained that she immediately called the Franklin Police Department and officers responded to her house later that evening. Neither K. R. nor S. R. were able to tell the officers what had occurred with appellant, but both children were able to give a statement when interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center in Middletown, Ohio a few days later.

{¶ 5} On cross-examination, Christina admitted she and her mother had a difficult relationship. She also admitted that they had fought in early August 2011 after Peggy allowed Christina's oldest daughter Nicki to live with her and appellant. However, at the time K.R. disclosed the molestation on August 30, 2011, Christina stated she and Peggy were "getting along a little bit" and she had no reason to want to "get back" at appellant by encouraging her children to make up a story about appellant inappropriately touching them. Christina expressly denied telling K.R. or S.R. to manufacture abuse allegations against appellant. However, Christina did admit during cross-examination that in 1998 she had accused the father of her daughter D.B. of inappropriately touching D.B. about a week after D.B.'s father had filed for custody. No charges were ever filed against D.B.'s father and he later gained custody of D.B. Christina also admitted on cross-examination that she had been convicted of child-endangerment in 2005 and her children had been removed from her custody at that time.

{¶ 6} K. R. was then called to the stand, and she testified she was ten years old at the time of trial and would be entering the fifth grade. K. R. stated appellant had lived with her at two different houses, one on South River Street and one on Clark Street. K.R. testified that when she was living at the South River Street home, appellant "touched my private spot. He touched * * * my private spot from down here and he went by the pee spot and rubbed up and down. * * * He rubbed on my pee spot up and down." When asked to clarify what she meant by "private spot, " K.R. stated that a private spot is "where you go pee." According to K. R., appellant would touch her "private spot" under her clothes with his hand while they were on the couch watching TV in the living room. K.R. also stated that appellant touched her "private spot" on the couch in the living room of the Clark Street residence. K.R. explained that when the touching occurred S.R. would be in the room, but she would be sitting farther away from them on the couch. K.R. said appellant only touched her "private spot" when Christina and Peggy were gone from the house and her older sisters were upstairs in their room. K.R. testified that after appellant was done touching her, he told her not to tell anyone about what had happened. K.R. further testified that while at the house on South River Street, she saw appellant touch S.R.'s "private spot" with his hand, but did not know if it was underneath or on top of S.R.'s clothing.

{¶ 7} K.R. explained that she finally told Christina about what appellant had been doing because she "thought it was time" and she knew "it was the right thing to do." K.R. also testified that she was worried that appellant might "do it" to her three-year-old cousin who was now living with appellant. On cross-examination, K.R. admitted that when asked by the Child Advocacy Center representative why she finally told Christina about what appellant had been doing, she had responded, "because once [Christina and Peggy] got in a fight and then I thought next time whoever gets in a fight with mommy, I'm going to tell on him. And the next time I told her." K.R. expressly denied fabricating the events, and she testified that the only thing Christina had instructed her to say when she testified at trial was the truth.

{¶ 8} Following K.R.'s testimony, S.R. was called to the stand. S.R. testified that she was nine years old at the time of trial and would be entering the fifth grade. She stated that while she was living on South River Street, appellant touched "[p]laces he's not supposed to touch." S.R. explained that while on the couch in the living room, appellant touched her "front part, " which she described as her private place where she "goes potty." S.R. stated that appellant used his hand to touch her "front part" on top of her clothing, and that he would move his hand back and forth. Appellant told her not to tell about what had occurred or "something bad [would] happen." S.R. stated she saw appellant touch K.R.'s "front part" too. According to S.R., neither Christina nor Peggy was home when appellant touched her.

{¶ 9} S.R. admitted on cross-examination that she had only told Christina about the touching after Peggy and Christina got into a fight. However, S.R. stated that she was telling the truth about what appellant had done and Christina had never instructed her to make up allegations against appellant as a means of "get[ting] back at [appellant] for something."

{¶ 10} D.B. and Officer Colvin were called to the stand to testify about the victims' demeanor on August 30, 2011. D.B. stated that she was upstairs in her home on Clark Street when her mother yelled for her to come downstairs. Upon arriving downstairs, she found Christina, S.R., and K.R. visibly upset. All three were crying, S.R. was trying to hide, and K. R. was covering her face. D.B. stated that K. R. originally did not want to tell her about the touching, but "she eventually [told]" her. S.R., however, would not talk to D.B. about the events. Officer Colvin, who responded to the scene later that evening, testified that S.R. and K.R. did not want to speak about the events and they "shied away" from him whenever he attempted to question them.

{¶ 11} Detective Figliola testified that he was able to observe S.R. and K.R.'s interviews at the Child Advocacy Center on September 2, 2011. He described K.R. as quiet, soft spoken and, "kind of more * * * drawn back a little bit as she was speaking about what was happening." Similarly, he observed that S.R. appeared more withdrawn and bashful when being questioned about appellant. Following the victims' interviews at the Child Advocacy Center, Detective Figliola arranged an interview with appellant. During the course of this interview. Detective Figliola felt that appellant had admitted to wrongdoing when appellant stated that "he could have" accidently touched areas he should not have when tickling the children, but "if [he] did, [he] didn't know it."

{¶ 12} At the close of the state's case, appellant moved for a Crim.R. 29 acquittal on all counts. The trial court granted the motion as to counts one and five, but denied the motion on counts two, three, and four. Thereafter, appellant presented evidence in his defense, which included his own testimony and testimony from various members of Christina and the victims' family, former employers of Christina, former caseworkers from Butler County Children Services who had dealt with Christina, and William Allen, the father of D.B. Appellant sought to elicit testimony demonstrating that Christina was a vindictive, abusive individual who coached, induced, or otherwise coerced her daughters into levying allegations against appellant as a means of striking back at Peggy.

{¶ 13} At trial, Allen testified that in 1998, approximately one week after he sought custody of his daughter D.B., Christina made claims that he had inappropriately touched D.B. According to Allen, Christina approached five different law enforcement agencies seeking to find someone willing to move forward on her complaint. Allen testified that no charges ever arose out of Christina's claims, and he was eventually awarded custody of D.B.

{¶ 14} Derrick W., Christina's brother and Peggy's son, testified at trial that he had lived with Christina on South River Street, and during the time he was living there, he never saw appellant alone with K.R. or S.R. He did, however, observe Christina being physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive to her children. He characterized Christina as a manipulative and vindictive person who frequently tried to "get even" with people who had upset her.

{ΒΆ 15} Four different caseworkers from Butler County Children Services were also called to testify. These caseworkers testified that Christina had a history with Children Services and there were instances when Christina had lost custody of her children. One caseworker testified that in July 2005, she observed a cigarette burn under the eye of S.R. Another caseworker testified that throughout Christina's history with Children Services there had been reported concerns about Christina's tendency to make false reports to Children Services and the police. ...

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