United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Hornsby U.S. Magistrate Judge
Steelman (“Petitioner”) was charged in Sabine
Parish with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a
juvenile based on allegations that he molested his two
stepdaughters. He was convicted of both counts after a bench
trial, and his convictions were affirmed on direct
appeal. Petitioner now seeks federal habeas corpus
relief on the grounds that the evidence-primarily the
testimony of the two girls-was insufficient to support the
convictions. He points to inconsistencies between their
statements to an investigator and their trial testimony,
alleged evidence of coaching, and other reasons to question
their credibility. For the reasons that follow, it is
recommended that the petition be denied.
and Tony Diener were married and had three children, a son
and two daughters. Tony passed away around 2001. Bridget
married Petitioner a few years later, and he joined her and
her children as a family that lived together for several
years before claims of abuse were made.
claims arose after the younger daughter, A.D., confided in a
friend that her stepfather had been molesting her. The friend
reported this to her mother, who contacted Bridget. The girls
were questioned by Bridget, Petitioner was kicked out of the
house, and law enforcement got involved. When the girls were
questioned, they stated that Bridget and Petitioner were
getting a divorce. Bridget, who had already been suffering
from colon cancer before the molestation came to light, died
Sheriff Jason Rivers testified at trial that the two girls
were taken to the Rapides Children's Advocacy Center in
Alexandria for recorded interviews (that were played as
evidence at trial). Both girls accused Petitioner of
molesting them. Afterward, Petitioner was invited to the
Sheriff's Office for an interview. Rivers said that,
before the deputies could explain what they were going to do
and administer Miranda warnings, Petitioner
“immediately started telling us that he had information
that the children were molested by their uncle.” The
deputies stopped him, explained his Miranda rights,
and continued the interview. Petitioner soon asked for an
attorney, which ended the interview.
counsel asked Deputy Rivers if he investigated the complaint
against the uncle. Rivers said that he spoke to the man by
telephone and interviewed some family members, but he did not
record the interviews. There is no indication that Petitioner
or anyone else had previously reported to law enforcement
that the uncle was molesting the children.
was 10 years old when she was interviewed at the Advocacy
Center in 2010. She said that her father had died when she
was so young that she “didn't even get to meet
him.” Her mother married Petitioner when she was about
five years old, and she said the abuse started after the
marriage. She said it would happen when her mother was gone,
such as when she took another child to a ball game. She said
Petitioner would use his hands and a “boy's lower
area” to touch her. She said he touched her
“boobs” and “cookie, ” licked her
cookie “a lot” and twice tried to penetrate her.
A.D. said that Petitioner would try to take off her clothes
“most of the time, but most of the time I wouldn't
let him.” The examiner asked her if anything
“ever came out of his thing, ” and A.D. said
there was “some, like white stuff.”
was asked if she thought Petitioner did anything to P.D., her
older sister. A.D. answered:
A.D. I know that he tried, like she told me like my momma
told her like to get her story straight when we got up here.
But like before we left the house we were just talking about
what we was gonna say. And she said that he touched her boobs
and that was it.
examiner followed up in this exchange:
Examiner: Oh, excuse me. Well and tell me more about that.
You said that your mom like was telling y'all to make
sure you had your stories straight before y'all came up
A.D. Yeah like to tell the truth about what happened.
also said that she was once outside playing ball while P.D.
played on a trampoline. Petitioner came outside, got on the
trampoline and started “doing stuff” with P.D.
A.D. said that she ...