APPEAL FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES. NO. 2013-04128, DIVISION " B" . Honorable Michael D. Clement.
Charles J. Ballay, District Attorney; Robert M. White, Belle Chasse, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE/STATE OF LOUISIANA.
Powell W. Miller, LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT.
Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Paul A. Bonin, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu.
Terri F. Love, J.
[2015-0124 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] William J. Cox, a/k/a Billy Cox (" Mr. Cox" ) appeals his convictions for eight (8) sex offenses committed against four juveniles in Plaquemines Parish. Mr. Cox alleges that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of other crimes, wrongs, and acts pursuant to La. C.E. art. 412.2. We find evidence of similar sex offenses under La. C.E. art. 412.2 is an exception to the general rule that evidence of other bad acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person and that his actions for which he stands trial were in conformity therewith. Further, we find the trial court's ruling admitting the introduction of the evidence was not an abuse of discretion given its probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Therefore, we affirm Mr. Cox's convictions and sentences.
In June 2014, Mr. Cox was charged by an amended bill of information to twelve counts of sex offenses including: oral sexual battery (La. R.S. 14:43.3) in Counts 1, 2, 3; sexual battery (La. R.S. 14.43.1) in Count 4; aggravated incest (now repealed La. R.S. 14:78.1) in Counts 5 and 8; indecent behavior with a juvenile
[2015-0124 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] (La. R.S. 14:81) in Counts 6 and 7; and, molestation of a juvenile (14.81.2) in Counts 9, 10, 11, and 12. Following a jury trial in August 2014, Mr. Cox was found not guilty of Counts 1 and 5; guilty as charged as to Counts 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12; and guilty of indecent behavior with a juvenile, the lesser responsive verdict, on Count 9.
Mr. Cox subsequently filed a motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and a motion for new trial. The trial court granted Mr. Cox's motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal as to counts 4 and 12, denied it as to all other counts, and denied his motion for new trial. Thereafter, the trial court sentenced Mr. Cox to forty years at hard labor. Mr. Cox received: five years at hard labor for Counts 6, 7, and 9 relative to indecent behavior with a juvenile; seven years at hard labor for Counts 2 and 3 relative to oral sexual battery; ten years at hard labor for Counts 10 and 11 relative to molestation of a juvenile; and fifteen years for Count 8 relative to aggravated incest. The trial court ordered that the sentences in Counts 2, 6, and 10 run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentences in Counts 8 and 9; the sentences in Counts 8 and 9 were ordered to run consecutively to each other; the sentences in Counts 3, 7, and 11 were ordered to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentences in Count 8 and Count 9. The trial court also denied Mr. Cox's oral and written motions for reconsideration of sentence, objecting to the consecutive nature of the sentences. The appeal presently before this Court followed.
[2015-0124 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Mr. Cox was charged with, and convicted of sexually abusing four juveniles in Plaquemines Parish, including: oral sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile as to sisters A.G. and C.B.; aggravated incest as to M.P.; indecent behavior
with a juvenile as to Mr. Cox's biological daughter C.C.; and molestation of a juvenile as to A.G., C.B., and M.P. Further, M.S., a fifth alleged victim, provided testimony at trial relating to uncharged and unadjudicated offenses of sexual abuse by Mr. Cox that occurred in St. Bernard Parish.
The allegation of sexual molestation stem from Mr. Cox's contact with the juvenile victims during Mr. Cox's marriage to F.P. in 1990 or 1991 and P.B. in 1993.
Mr. Cox began a relationship with F.P. in and around 1984 and moved in with F.P. and her children the same year. F.P., the mother of victims A.G. and C.B., testified at trial that that when she and Mr. Cox began their relationship, A.G. was four years old, and C.B. was one year old. She and Mr. Cox married in 1990 or 1991; however, the marriage dissolved in 1993.
Victim A.G., born in 1980, testified at trial that she was almost six years old when Mr. Cox began molesting her while the family was living in Georgia. She stated that the abuse occurred almost daily and that he threatened to kill her if she told anyone. She described being " petrified" at the time. She testified that the
[2015-0124 La.App. 4 Cir. 4] molestation began with Mr. Cox touching her, and as she grew older, the abuse progressed to him performing oral sex upon her and to him forcing her to perform oral sex upon him. She stated that when they would visit her aunt in Buras, Louisiana, located in Plaquemines Parish, Mr. Cox would take her with him when he drove to the store. Mr. Cox would then drive down a secluded dirt road and molest her, including forcing her to perform oral sex. She first told someone about the abuse when she and her family evacuated during Hurricane Andrew to her grandmother's house. She told her aunt about the molestation; and then she and her sister C.B. told their mother, grandmother, and another aunt, who were all present at the time.
C.B., born in 1983, also testified at trial. She stated that Mr. Cox began molesting her when she was three or four years old. She testified that the first time was while they were living in Georgia. She described how Mr. Cox took her into the bathroom, pulled down her underwear, and orally touched her. She stated that he never had her touch his penis. She also testified that while they were living in Houma, Louisiana, Mr. Cox tried to penetrate her anally; however, when she screamed, he stopped. She stated that the abuse occurred regularly, about every other day. She testified that she was afraid to tell anyone because he threatened to kill her. Given that Mr. Cox abused her mother, C.B. believed his threats. She described that while living in Georgia, she was afraid to urinate in the morning because the bathroom was next to the master bedroom. She often urinated on the
[2015-0124 La.App. 4 Cir. 5] floor of her bedroom and blamed it on the dog. Like her sister, C.B. did not tell anyone about the molestation until they were at her grandmother's house during their evacuation for Hurricane Andrew. She stated that the same molestation occurred in Plaquemines Parish when they would stay at her aunt's house in Buras, Louisiana.
A.G. and C.B.'s mother, F.P., testified at trial that it was not until they evacuated for Hurricane Andrew that the girls revealed " what happened." When they returned to Gray, Louisiana, F.P. confronted Mr. Cox with the ...