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State v. Bass

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 21, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellee
v.
JOHN LEE BASS, Appellant

         Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Morehouse, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 14460 Honorable Alvin R. Sharp, Judge

          DOUGLAS L. HARVILLE Louisiana Appellate Project Counsel for Appellant

          ROBERT S. TEW District Attorney STEPHEN T. SYLVESTER JOHN GATES SPIRES Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before BROWN, PITMAN, and COX, JJ.

          BROWN, C.J.

         Defendant, John Lee Bass, was charged by bill of information with forcible rape, in violation of La. R.S. 14:42.1.[1] The charge was amended thereafter when defendant was charged by grand jury indictment with aggravated rape, in violation of La. R.S. 14:42. After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of the responsive verdict of forcible rape. He was sentenced to 40 years at hard labor and ordered to register as a sex offender. On appeal, defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and contends that his sentence is excessive. We affirm defendant's conviction, amend defendant's sentence to include the restriction of benefits for the first two years, and, as amended, affirm, and remand with instructions.

         FACTS

         On May 22, 2014, defendant was charged by bill of information with forcible rape of L.R. on the Jackson Park trail in Morehouse Parish. At arraignment, defendant pled not guilty. On January 27, 2015, the state filed a grand jury indictment, which amended the charge to aggravated rape. Defendant entered a plea of not guilty on January 29, 2015.

         On December 7, 2015, defendant's trial commenced. At trial, the state called six witnesses. The state's first witness was defendant's brother, John Willie Bass, who testified that he was charged as a co-defendant for the rape of L.R. John Willie testified that he pled guilty to forcible rape in exchange for a 20-year sentencing cap. John Willie asserted that although he pled guilty, he "did not admit to rapin' nobody" and only pled guilty on the advice of his lawyer. John Willie admitted that he knew L.R., but denied that she attended a party at his parents' home prior to her assault. John Willie also stated that, when he was questioned by police, he told them that he had consensual sex with L.R. on several occasions, including the day of the alleged rape. According to John Willie, he and several of his "home boys, " Leroy and "Zem, " had sex with L.R. that day.

         The factual basis that was read during John Willie's guilty plea colloquy was played off the record and outside of the presence of the jury. Once the jury returned to the courtroom, John Willie testified that the factual basis, read at his guilty plea, did not accurately portray what occurred on the night of the alleged rape. John Willie further stated that when he pled guilty, he was simply acknowledging that he understood the factual basis, not admitting that it was an accurate representation of what occurred. A copy of the minutes stating that John Willie was sentenced to 20 years for the rape of L.R. was admitted into evidence.

         On cross-examination, John Willie testified that neither he nor defendant was with L.R. when she was allegedly raped. He further stated that he only pled guilty because he was told by his counsel that he would receive ten years in jail, which would supposedly "run concurrent with [John Willie's] parole time, " and that "the deal didn't go through." He testified that this ten-year sentence was why he pled guilty to forcible rape. John Willie then stated he did not understand the charges to which he pled guilty. John Willie also admitted to being a convicted felon.

         Rosheka Johnson testified next. Ms. Johnson stated that she encountered L.R. shortly after the alleged rape. L.R. was walking up the road toward her. Ms. Johnson could see that L.R. was crying and shaking. L.R. appeared to have been in a struggle; she had grass in her hair and was visibly upset. Ms. Johnson testified that she asked L.R. what was wrong, and L.R. told her that she had been raped. Ms. Johnson called the police and waited with L.R. until the officers arrived.

         L.R. testified that she was raped by defendant and his brother, John Willie, on April 26, 2014. L.R. stated that she attended a party at defendant's parents' home the evening she was attacked. At the party, L.R. drank about a 12-pack of beer and then argued with defendant's cousin, "Punkin." After the argument, around 11:30 p.m., L.R. testified that she left the party alone and began walking home through Jackson Park. According to L.R., she was wearing a t-shirt, underwear, and blue jean shorts that evening. As she walked through the park, L.R. heard a noise behind her. The noise came closer, frightening L.R., and she began to run. As L.R. was running, she heard a voice behind her say, "I told you don't run. I told you don't run." Someone then grabbed L.R.'s shirt and hair from behind and threw her to the ground. L.R. testified that she was lying on her stomach, but she managed to see the faces of her assailants, whom she identified as John Willie and defendant. L.R. also testified that she fought John Willie and defendant, telling them to stop, but neither did.

         L.R. then testified that while defendant attempted to force his penis into her mouth, a third person, J.D., came upon the scene and said, "[n]o, that's wrong." But, instead of helping her, J.D. left the scene, and the assault continued. L.R. stated that defendant held her down while John Willie took off her shorts and raped her. During the attack, L.R. heard defendant cheer John Willie on, and defendant stated that "I want some of that too." When John Willie finished raping L.R., he switched positions with his brother and held L.R. down as defendant raped her. After defendant finished, the brothers switched positions again, and John Willie raped L.R. a second time. When the attack ended, L.R. testified that she struggled to gather her belongings, and defendant and John Willie left her lying on the ground. L.R. walked toward the street, where she encountered Rosheka Johnson. She told Ms. Johnson that she had been raped by John Willie and defendant. L.R. further testified that she never had sexual relations with either man before, and she did not have sex with anyone else on the day of her attack. During her testimony, L.R. showed the jury the pair of shorts she was wearing the night of the attack and stated that defendant and John Willie broke the shorts' zipper as they were removing them.

         On cross-examination, L.R. denied having either consensual oral or vaginal sex with defendant on the day she was attacked. L.R. also denied ever accusing anyone else of raping her.[2] L.R. stated that she had lived with John Willie and defendant's parents for approximately two years prior to the attack, but neither brother lived in the home at the same time as L.R. She also testified that right after the attack, she did not use the restroom or do anything to alter the condition of her vaginal area. Finally, L.R. stated that after the attack, she could not locate her underwear.

         Captain Keesonya Lynch, [3] an officer with the Bastrop Police Department, testified that on April 26, 2014, she was dispatched to 501 Jackson Street concerning an alleged assault. Upon arriving at the scene, Cpt. Lynch made contact with L.R. and observed that she appeared to have been in an altercation. According to Cpt. Lynch, L.R.'s hair was "all over her head, " her shirt was torn, and L.R.'s shorts were ripped open at the waist. Cpt. Lynch noted that L.R. was not wearing underwear, and she appeared to be shaken up. Cpt. Lynch testified that L.R. admitted to being sexually assaulted by defendant and John Willie. Cpt. Lynch also testified that she arrested John Willie and defendant shortly after meeting with L.R. Finally, Cpt. Lynch noted that she was not present when the rape kit was collected, and she sent her report to Cpt. Anthony Evans. A photograph of the Jackson Park trail was admitted during Cpt. Lynch's testimony.

         Captain Anthony Evans, another officer with the Bastrop Police Department, testified next. Cpt. Evans testified that he was the chief of detectives in April of 2014. Cpt. Evans stated that on April 26, 2014, he received a call concerning a sexual assault and first encountered defendant and John Willie at the police station. Cpt. Evans testified that he advised defendant of his Miranda rights, [4] and defendant indicated that he understood his rights. Defendant did not appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he signed the rights waiver form, which was admitted into evidence. Both Cpt. Evans and Cpt. Lynch were present during defendant's interview, which took place on April 27, 2014, between 12:53 and 1:01 a.m. A recording of defendant's interview was then played for the jury. During the interrogation, defendant first denied having sex with L.R. However, after Cpt. Evans indicated that a DNA swab would be taken from him as part of L.R.'s rape kit, defendant claimed to have had consensual sex with L.R. in his bedroom during the party around 11:00 p.m. on April 26, 2014. The other party guests were in the living room playing cards, according to defendant. He indicated that he and L.R. have had a casual sexual relationship since 2008. Defendant testified that L.R. was extremely intoxicated at the party. According to defendant, she drank about "six or seven cases" of beer. When asked about the number of people at the party, defendant stated that only six people were present.

         Cpt. Evans testified that on the day after the attack, he took L.R. to the crime scene, and she pointed out where on the trail the rape occurred. They tried to locate her missing underwear, but were unable to do so. Crime scene pictures taken by Cpt. Evans were admitted into evidence and published to the jury. Cpt. Evans also testified that he collected the rape kit, DNA swabs from John Willie and defendant, L.R.'s shorts, and L.R.'s blood samples ...


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