ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 13-2113, DIVISION " I" . HONORABLE NANCY A. MILLER, JUDGE PRESIDING.
PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., DISTRICT ATTORNEY, Twenty-Fourth Judicial District, Parish of Jefferson; TERRY M. BOUDREAUX, GAIL D. SCHLOSSER, BLAIR C. CONSTANT, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, Gretna, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE.
EDWARD K. BAUMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Lake Charles, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.
Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Robert M. Murphy, and Hans J. Liljeberg.
Jude G. GRAVOIS, J.
[14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] Defendant, Clint Brenckle, appeals his conviction of two counts of sexual battery upon known juveniles. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, that the trial court erred in granting the State's motion in limine to prevent his introduction of one of the victim's past allegedly false allegations of sexual abuse, and finally that his sentences are unconstitutionally excessive. Finding no merit to defendant's arguments, we affirm his convictions and sentences.
On June 27, 2013, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office filed a bill of information charging defendant with two counts of sexual battery upon known juveniles (D.O.B. 12/1/07 and 12/18/06), wherein each child was under the age of thirteen, in violation of La. R.S. 14:43.1. On June 28, 2013, defendant appeared for arraignment and pled not guilty.
The State filed a motion in limine to prevent the admissibility of testimony regarding unrelated allegations, which the trial court granted. Trial was held on [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] March 13-14, 2014. A twelve-person jury returned a verdict against defendant of guilty as charged as to both counts of sexual battery upon known juveniles.
On March 26, 2014, defense counsel filed a " Motion for New Trial and Alternatively to Arrest the Judgment," which was denied. On March 27, 2014, the trial court sentenced defendant to imprisonment at hard labor for a term of 40 years on each count, to be served concurrently, without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. That same day, defendant's motion to reconsider sentence was denied. He filed a motion to appeal, which was granted.
This case involves allegations against defendant of sexual battery made by two victims, C.H. and M.B., both under the age of thirteen.
A.L., C.H.'s mother, testified that C.H. was seven years old at the time of trial and his father did not play an active role in his life. She testified that she met defendant at the First Pentecostal Church on Ames Boulevard approximately two years prior to trial, and that they were just friends. She never had an intimate relationship with defendant, but at one point, " Brother Bryan" from the church called and told her that defendant was about to be homeless and asked if she could offer him a place to live. She agreed, and defendant stayed inside her home for approximately two to three months. When defendant was staying with her, he would babysit C.H., and thus was left alone with him.
On October 25, 2012, A.L. was having dinner with friends and C.H. was with her. A.L. testified that her " friend's little boy came downstairs and said that [C.H.] went to put his penis by his anus." She confronted C.H. and he " said that he had learned it from [defendant]." C.H. told her that he " had touched [defendant's] penis" and " [defendant] had touched [C.H.'s] penis in the car at Piggly Wiggly." [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] A.L. testified that C.H. did not actually use the word " penis," but he " refers to his penis as his 'weenie.'" She testified that she called both 9-1-1 and defendant. She asked defendant why her son told her that defendant had touched him, and defendant denied it. She told defendant she was about to call the police, and defendant told her " [w]ell, when they leave, call me and let me know what happens." That was the last time A.L. spoke with defendant. A.L. then called the police, and both she and C.H. spoke with Deputy Christopher Bassil and Detective David Canas, and it was arranged for C.H. to be brought to the Children's Advocacy Center (" CAC" ). Later, she also brought C.H. to the Tulane Autism Center, where he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
Dr. Ellie Wetsman, a child abuse pediatrician who worked as an independent contractor for Children's Hospital, was accepted by the court as an expert in the field of Pediatrics, Pediatric Forensic Medicine, and Child Sexual Abuse. Dr. Wetsman testified that she personally examined and took a history from C.H. in December of 2012. She testified that his history was consistent with a " delayed disclosure" of sexual abuse, especially because he did not want to tell her everything, and said, " I can't tell you, because you're going to freak out." Dr. Wetsman showed C.H. a diagram of an outline of a person and asked C.H. to point out where he was touched; C.H. pointed to the genitals. In Dr. Wetsman's opinion, everything she learned from C.H. through his physical examination and through taking his history was consistent with a delayed disclosure of sex abuse.
On cross-examination, Dr. Wetsman testified that she has testified in numerous criminal matters, each time for the prosecution. She stated that C.H. [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 5] never gave her defendant's name, and that she could not testify that defendant was the individual who touched or manipulated C.H.
Detective David Canas testified that in October of 2012, he was assigned to the Personal Violence Division with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. On October
25, 2012, he responded to a call on the corner of Power and Kawanee and the victim advised that " he was touched in his private part." He met with the victim, C.H., and his mother, A.L., in the Rouse's parking lot, and after speaking with them, he developed defendant as a potential suspect.
Detective Canas learned that the abuse was sexual abuse by touching the victim's penis area. He spoke with C.H., who told him that defendant had touched his " pee-pee." C.H. pointed to the area between his legs. Detective Canas testified that C.H. was very consistent in his claim that he was " touched on the penis area."
Detective Canas testified that because he had difficulty finding a consistent address for defendant, he called him on the phone, and defendant came to the Detective Bureau. When defendant came in, Detective Canas advised him of his Miranda  rights and that he was conducting an investigation. Defendant elected to give a recorded statement, but he was not arrested and Detective Canas continued to build the case.
Detective Canas later became aware of an additional case involving defendant and another child. He testified that the two cases had a lot of similarities, from the age of the children to where they were touched, and defendant knowing their mothers and being friends with the families. Defendant was the perpetrator indicated by both children.
On cross-examination, Detective Canas testified that C.H.'s initial disclosure was " a little inconsistent." He testified that C.H. said that another little boy learned [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 6] that game about exposing his penis from defendant, but Detective Canas learned that the little boy did not know defendant. C.H. also at one point stated that defendant put his mouth on his " pee-pee," but when the detective attempted to clarify that statement, C.H. said, " No, no, no, like this." Detective Canas also testified that C.H. provided different accounts of whether defendant's pants were on or off. Detective Canas testified that when defendant came to the Detective Bureau, he denied sexually touching C.H., but said " he touched [C.H.] to help him zip up his pants."
At trial, C.H. testified that he was seven years old and in the first grade. The video of C.H.'s forensic interview was published and viewed in open court. C.H. testified that what he said in the video about where defendant touched him was the truth, and defendant touched him " [i]n the middle."
In the CAC interview, C.H. said that " Clint" touched him down there and pointed between his legs and said he was touched at the front part between his legs. When C.H. was asked what the front part between his legs was called, he said he could not tell it to girls because they would " freak out." C.H. then said he did not know what the part was called, but it is the part that " pee-pees." C.H. said defendant only used his hand to touch him. C.H. said defendant touched him one time. C.H. then said the part where defendant touched him is called a " weiner." When defendant touched his " weinee," C.H. was wearing clothes. C.H. then said defendant touched the " skin" of his " weinee," but C.H. did not know how defendant touched the skin. C.H. said they were in defendant's car with " Cheesy-Puff," who was defendant's male adult friend. When defendant touched C.H.'s " weinee," C.H. said " Cheesy-Puff" was in the store and he and defendant were in the car. C.H. said the car was at the store. C.H. said no one saw
defendant touch his " weinee." C.H. said that defendant did not make him do anything, and did not [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 7] say anything when he touched C.H., and C.H. did not say anything to him. C.H. said that was the only time anything happened with defendant. He said the first person he told about defendant touching his " weinee" was an officer. C.H. said that defendant never took any pictures or videos, and defendant never talked to him on the phone or the computer. C.H. also said that no one did anything with their mouth.
On cross-examination, C.H. testified that he told " one of a protectors" that defendant had him touch " his tickle spot, and he said, 'Touch it.'" When asked what his tickle spot was, C.H. testified it was the middle part, which was the " weiner." C.H. testified he did not remember saying defendant put his penis in his mouth or that he put his penis in defendant's mouth, and C.H. testified that he did not do that. C.H. testified he did not remember telling a police officer that defendant took his pants off. He said that he remembered telling the detective that his pants were not off when defendant touched him.
The second victim was M.B., who was six years old at the time of trial. A.T., M.B.'s mother, testified that she met defendant approximately 30 years earlier, when she was about 14 years old, and defendant had been a family friend. A.T. testified that she introduced M.B. to defendant when M.B. was four years old. She testified that defendant never babysat M.B., but he would watch her for about ten minutes at a time. Defendant was at A.T.'s house frequently and sometimes if she was cleaning or doing laundry, defendant and M.B. would play video games together. A.T. testified that defendant asked to stay with her for two weeks. The morning after defendant's first night staying with A.T., on April 14, 2013, M.B. started to act odd. A.T. testified that she got up to use the bathroom around 3:30 [14-883 La.App. 5 Cir. 8] a.m. and noticed that M.B. was still awake and she said that she could not sleep because she was scared.
M.B.'s father came back from work around 7:00 a.m. and A.T. pulled him into the kitchen and told him they had a problem because M.B. was telling her that someone had touched and hurt her, and she wouldn't say who it was. M.B.'s father took M.B. into the bathtub and was talking to her when M.B. told him that " Uncle Clint" touched her, referring to defendant. M.B. said he touched her " tootie," which was the word she was taught to use when being potty-trained. That morning, A.T. confronted defendant, crying, and asked if he touched her baby. ...