Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 338, 987 Honorable
Roy L. Brun, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Annette F. Roach Counsel for
E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney TRENEISHA JACKSON HILL
REBECCA ARMAND EDWARDS Assistant District Attorneys.
BROWN, GARRETT, and STEPHENS, JJ.
defendant, Robert Alan Bridges, was convicted as charged of
indecent behavior with a juvenile, in violation of La. R.S.
14:81, for sending a lewd text message to a 14-year-old girl.
He was sentenced to four years at hard labor. He was also
ordered to pay a fine of $4, 000 or serve three years in the
parish jail in lieu of payment. We affirm the defendant's
conviction. However, we amend the sentence to vacate the
portion ordering jail time in default of payment of a fine
and affirm the sentence as amended.
14-year-old female victim knew the married, adult male
defendant from church, where he attended a Sunday school
class taught by one of her grandparents. On February 22,
2016, the victim had her iPad with her in gym class when the
following message from the defendant appeared on the screen:
message was accompanied by the defendant's name, screen
name, and photo. A second message - "Hello??" -
teacher saw the victim with the iPad and confiscated it. Upon
seeing the message, the gym teacher reported it to a school
counselor. Sgt. Andray Miles, a deputy sheriff who served as
the school resource officer, was then informed of the
situation, and he contacted the Youth Services Division of
the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office. Sgt. Miles testified
that, after locating another photo of the defendant on
Facebook, he contacted his headquarters to obtain the
defendant's date of birth and verified that he was an
the ensuing investigation, the defendant was interviewed on
two occasions by Detective Trey Keene. In the first
interview, the defendant denied sending any sexually
inappropriate messages to the victim. In the second
interview, which occurred three days later, the defendant
admitted sending the message at issue. Both interviews
were recorded. The defendant was charged with indecent
behavior with a juvenile.
preliminary examination on April 19, 2016, the trial court
found probable cause for the charge. On the same date, the
state tendered its discovery items to the defense. They
consisted of 73 pages of documents filed in the record, as
well as "a copy of four DVDs and three CDs"
received by defense counsel in court. Included in the
discovery documents was a written report by Detective Jared
Marshall, the investigator who conducted the forensic search
of the victim's iPad and the defendant's cell phone.
He specifically described some of the deleted files he
recovered from an S.D. card found attached to the
defendant's cell phone. They included nude photos, some
of the defendant and some of children.
April 2017 trial, the state presented the testimony of the
victim, the gym teacher, Sgt. Miles, Detective Keene, and
Detective Marshall. The victim testified that the gym teacher
took the iPad away from her before she could read the message
from the defendant. She stated that she and the defendant
were Facebook friends and used Facebook Messenger to
communicate outside of church. In addition to messages, she
testified that they had exchanged inappropriate pictures,
"[s]tuff that shouldn't have been sent."
According to her testimony, in one of the photos sent to her
by the defendant, he was clothed on the top but
"exposed" on the bottom.Detective Keene testified
about his interviews with the defendant, specifically the
defendant's denials in the first one and his admissions
in the second interview. He also stated that, while he did
not know his exact age, the defendant was over the age of 18
Detective Marshall's testimony, the defense made an
objection and asked for the jury to be removed before he was
questioned about what he found during the forensic search of
the defendant's cell phone. The defendant objected to the
state eliciting testimony about nude photos found on the cell
phone. The state agreed not to refer to the photos of naked
children found on the device. However, the state noted that
there was "a lot of pornographic material found" on
the phone which it believed was relevant and which was
included in the materials tendered to the defense in
discovery. The defense objected to "all of it." The
state then announced its intention to ask questions about the
defendant's internet search for certain topics, such as
"naïve teen girl." According to the state,
Detective Marshall had placed a software report, which
included thumbnail photos of the defendant's cell phone
internet search history, on a disc, and it had been tendered
to the defense during discovery. The trial court examined the
"thumbnails" and asked if the evidence was of a
"lustful disposition." The state indicated it was
not, and that the websites were legal and did not involve
child pornography. Ultimately, the trial court reasoned that
La. C.E. art. 412.2, which pertains to evidence of similar
crimes, wrongs, or acts in sex offense cases, was applicable.
The trial court also applied a prejudicial versus probative
analysis. It sustained the objection in part and denied it in
part, limiting the testimony to websites referencing behavior
similar to that of which the defendant was accused.
Thereafter, Detective Marshall testified before the jury that
the internet history on the defendant's cell phone had
links to pornographic videos with titles including words like
"teen naïve" and "virgin." He also
stated that he was able to recover some deleted material from
an S.D. card in the cell phone which included numerous photos
of an erect penis.
defendant testified on his own behalf. He denied sending the
victim any inappropriate or sexual messages, denied
confessing the same to Detective Keene, and claimed his
Facebook account was hacked, most likely by a man with whom
his former wife had been involved. On rebuttal, the state
recalled Detective Keene and played for the jury a portion of
his second interview with the defendant in which the
defendant admitting sending the message at
issue. A unanimous jury found the defendant
guilty as charged.
defendant filed a motion for new trial and a motion for
post-verdict judgment of acquittal. Following a hearing, both
motions were denied. As to the motion for post-verdict
judgment of acquittal, the defense argued that the state
failed to establish the defendant's age because no
evidence was presented as to his date of birth. In denying
this motion, the trial court specifically cited the testimony
of Detective Keene that the defendant was over the age of 18.
The trial court also stated, "[w]hile we may not be able
to pin the exact year, I think everyone would agree he's
at least 30 years old because we can all see
no mitigating factors and several aggravating factors,
including the defendant's "utter lack of any
remorse" and his refusal to accept responsibility for
his actions, the trial court sentenced the defendant to four
years at hard labor. Additionally, it imposed a $4, 000 fine,
and ordered that the defendant serve three years in the
parish jail in lieu of payment of the fine. The
defendant's motion to reconsider sentence was denied. The
defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his
motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal. He maintains
that there was no "completed act" because the gym
teacher intercepted his message to the 14-year-old intended
recipient before she saw it. As a result, he requests that
his conviction be vacated and the responsive verdict of
attempted indecent behavior with a juvenile be entered.
standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the
evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier
of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560
(1979); State v. Tate, 2001-1658 (La. 5/20/03), 851
So.2d 921, cert. denied, 541 U.S. 905, 124 S.Ct.
1604, 158 L.Ed.2d 248 (2004); State v. Sullivan, 51,
180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/15/17), 216 So.3d 175, writ not
cons., 2017-0895 (La. 9/6/17), 226 So.3d 428. This
standard, now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821,
does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to
substitute its own appreciation of the evidence ...