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State v. Stanforth

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont

May 30, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HENRY L. STANFORTH, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 2015 CR 0171

          D. Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, for plaintiff-appellee

          Joshua R. Crousey, for defendant-appellant

          OPINION

          RINGLAND, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Henry Stanforth, appeals his conviction and sentence in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas for multiple sexual offenses. For the reasons detailed below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} On March 26, 2015, Stanforth was indicted on one count of importuning in violation of R.C. 2907.07, a third-degree felony, and two counts of gross sexual imposition in violation of R.C. 2907.05, both third-degree felonies. The indictment alleged that between June 1, 2014 and November 23, 2014, Stanforth sexually abused seven-year-old P.E. and eight-year-old A.E.[1]

         {¶ 3} This matter proceeded to a jury trial. The state presented the testimonies of the victims' mother ("Mother") and father, social workers, the victims themselves, as well as other individuals, including a former Stanforth victim who alleged a similar pattern of grooming and exploitation when she was a child.

         {¶ 4} Mother testified that, prior to this incident, she had a strong bond with Stanforth and his wife for many years. Mother testified that the children also had a relationship with Stanforth who was a grandfather-figure to A.E. and P.E. The children would go fishing and four-wheeling with Stanforth in his backyard and Stanforth would occasionally give the0 children money and candy. The children would also stay the night at the Stanforth residence.

         {¶ 5} In November of 2014, Mother testified that A.E. began wetting the bed and P.E. would engage in similar changes in behavior such as sleeping on the couch or turning on the television in the middle of the night. P.E. also began exhibiting self-esteem issues.

         {¶ 6} Mother testified that in January of 2015, as she was making the bed, P.E. started telling her that someone had been bullying her at school and later asked if they could "speak privately." P.E. explained to Mother that someone had been "acting funny" in front of her and later stated that a person had peed in front of her and that the person had touched her "down there and that he had her touch him down there." Mother then spoke with A.E., who also confirmed that Stanforth had shown her his private parts.

         {¶ 7} Mother contacted authorities and the children were interviewed by social workers at the Mayerson Center. During the interview, as corroborated by the testimony of the social worker, A.E. stated that Stanforth had lifted her shirt to look at her boobs and pulled down her pants to look at her "thing" and that he had shown her his "thing." An anatomical drawing confirmed that A.E. described her vagina as her "thing" and Stanforth's "thing" as his penis. In her separate interview, P.E. stated that Stanforth had touched her "thing" and had made her touch his "thing." Again, P.E. confirmed the meaning of "thing."

         {¶ 8} The Clermont County Sheriffs Office assigned an investigator to the case and Mother was asked to speak with Stanforth about the allegations while wearing a hidden recording device. Mother spoke with Stanforth on two occasions in a nonconfrontational manner, while acting as a concerned parent trying to understand the allegations. Mother did not disclose that she had spoken with law enforcement. During the conversations, Stanforth denied any wrongdoing, but offered strange and sometimes conflicting accounts. For example, Stanforth initially denied any inappropriate conduct, but later admitted that the children had seen him "peeing" in the woods. Later, Stanforth detailed an account where A.E. had allegedly gotten injured while riding a four-wheeler and she had pulled her pants and underwear down to inspect an injury. During all of the recorded conversations, Stanforth denied the allegations as presented to him, but vacillated in some responses stating that he would "make sure nothing happens again" and ensuring that he would never be with the children alone. Several times, Stanforth expressed concern that his wife was "going to shit" or "kill him" if she learned about the accusations.

         {¶ 9} P.E. testified at trial and identified Stanforth as the perpetrator. P.E. explained that she would hang out with Stanforth and ride four-wheelers at his house. P.E. detailed the sexual incidents as occurring when she was alone with Stanforth in his exercise room. During the summer of 2014, P.E. testified that Stanforth had touched her private parts and he had her touch his private parts. P.E. stated that this had occurred on more than one occasion and Stanforth had told P.E. not to tell anyone.

         {¶ 10} A.E. also testified at trial and detailed the sexual incident occurring during the summer of 2014. A.E., like her sister, stated that she would go over to Stanforth's house and stay the night. Stanforth would go fishing with her and give her money and candy. Finally, A.E. detailed the encounter with Stanforth and testified that Stanforth had shown her his private and told her not to tell anyone.

         {¶ 11} The final witness for the state was A.L. who was identified as a former Stanforth victim brought to testify as to past sexual abuse relevant to show plan, scheme, or absence of mistake. A.L. corroborated the grooming account and identified Stanforth's scheme for engaging in sexual behavior with minor children. A.L. testified that when she was 12 years old, A.L. had befriended her by taking her out for fun activities like fishing and four-wheeling. Eventually, Stanforth got A.L. alone and would begin the abuse. A.L. testified that Stanforth would pull down her pants and touch her vagina and would pull down his pants and have her touch his penis. A.L. likewise testified that Stanforth would give her money and would take her to the store to buy candy. As with the victims in the present case, A.L. stated that Stanforth told her not to tell anyone.

         {¶ 12} The jury found Stanforth guilty of all offenses listed in the indictment. The trial court imposed a three-year prison sentence for importuning and five-year prison sentences for each count of gross sexual imposition. The trial court ordered all sentences to be served consecutively for a total stated prison term of 13 years. Stanforth now appeals the decision of the trial court, raising five assignments of error for review. For ease of discussion, Stanforth's assignments of error will be addressed out of order.

         {¶ 13} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 14} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW BY PERMITTING EVIDENCE OF "OTHER ACTS" AS SUBSTANTIVE EVIDENCE.

         {¶ 15} In his first assignment of error, Stanforth argues the trial court erred and abused its discretion by admitting other acts evidence through the testimony of A.L. regarding his alleged prior sexual misconduct directed towards her ...


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