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State ex rel. H. H.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 4, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF H. H.

          On Appeal from The Juvenile Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Juvenile Court No. 108, 642 Honorable Pamela T. Johnson, Judge Presiding

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Otha Curtis Nelson, Jr. Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, LA Attorneys for Plaintiff -Appellant, State of Louisiana.

          Joseph K. Scott, III Baton Rouge, LA Attorney for Defendant -Appellee, H. H.

          BEFORE: HIGGINBOTHAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.

          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         The sixteen-year-old juvenile, H. H., was alleged to be delinquent according to a petition filed by the State on October 16, 2015, pursuant to the Louisiana Children's Code. The petition was based upon the alleged commission of two counts of first degree rape (victims under the age of thirteen years), violations of Louisiana Revised Statutes l4;42A(4) (counts one and two); and two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile, violations of Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:8 lA(1) (counts three and four). All four counts were alleged to have occurred on or about January 1, 2015, through August 19, 2015. The juvenile entered a denial to the allegations. Following an adjudication hearing, the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent on count three, indecent behavior with a juvenile, and the juvenile court dismissed counts one, two, and four. At the disposition hearing, the juvenile judge reprimanded and warned the juvenile. The State filed a motion to reconsider disposition, which the juvenile court denied. On appeal, the State raises two assignments of error.

         FACTS

         The adjudication hearing was not made part of the record on appeal. According to the predisposition report and petition, on August 19, 2015, the Zachary Police Department received a complaint that the juvenile had sexually abused two of his younger step-siblings on or about January 1, 2015, through August 19, 2015.

         DISPOSITION

         In two related assignments of error, the State argues that the juvenile court abused its discretion in rendering the disposition and that the disposition is illegally lenient. Specifically, the State contends that the disposition entered fails to take into consideration the circumstances of the case, the needs of the child, and the best interest of society.

         A juvenile court judge is given wide discretion in the imposition of dispositions within statutory limits. See State in the Interest of S.D., 2014-439 (La.App. 3d Cir. 10/ 1/ 14), 149 So.3d 917, 921, writ denied, 2016- 1953 (La. 11/ 15/ 16), 205 So.3d 907. After adjudicating a child to be delinquent, a court is required to impose the "least restrictive disposition" authorized by Articles 897 through 900 of the Louisiana Children's Code, "which the court finds is consistent with the circumstances of the case, the needs of the child, and the best interest of society." See La. Ch. Code art. 901B. Under Louisiana Children's Code article 897A(1), after adjudication of any felony-grade delinquent act other than those described in Article 897. l, the juvenile court may "[r]eprimand and warn the child and release him into the custody of his parents either unconditionally or subject to such terms and conditions as deemed in the best interests of the child and the public."

         Pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statutes 14.8lH(1), "[w]hoever commits the crime of indecent behavior with juveniles shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than seven years, or both[.]"

         At the disposition hearing, a predisposition report, psychosexual evaluation, and an addendum to the predisposition report were filed into evidence. According to the predisposition report, the juvenile participated in and successfully completed individual sex offender treatment provided by Dr. Romano and Associates. A letter dated June 13, 2016, from Dr. Romano stating that the juvenile consistently and promptly attended his sessions was attached to the predisposition report. Although he maintained his innocence, the juvenile remained actively engaged in treatment and was receptive to feedback. According to the letter, the juvenile's overall level of progress was acceptable, and he reached maximum therapeutic benefit. In explaining the juvenile's discharge, Dr. Romano specifically stated:

If an individual denies the offense, never committed the offense, or is not adjudicated for the offense, the therapist can only provide the necessary resources and tools to hopefully prevent recidivism or even a first time offense; the therapist is somewhat limited in what can be provided without one or more of these conditions being met. In summation, a ...

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