APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-3146, DIVISION
"M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr.
Terry M. Boudreaux Thomas J. Butler Lindsay L. Truhe Zachary
DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, BILLY JOE HOWARD Sherry A. Watters
composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and John
J. Molaison, Jr.
J. MOLAISON, JR. JUDGE
appeals his convictions and sentences for indecent behavior
with a juvenile and sexual battery upon a known juvenile. For
the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's
convictions and sentences, and we remand for the correction
of an error patent on the face of the record.
23, 2016, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office
charged defendant, Billy Joe Howard, in Count 1, with
indecent behavior with a juvenile, in violation of La. R.S.
14:81 and, in Count 2, with sexual battery upon a known
juvenile, a violation of La. R.S. 14:43.1. Defendant, in
absentia, pled not guilty to both counts through counsel
at his arraignment on May 24, 2016. Defendant proceeded to a
jury trial on October 3, 2017, at the conclusion of which he
was found guilty as charged on both counts. Defendant's
motion for new trial, filed October 12, 2017, was denied on
that same date. Also, on October 12, 2017, the trial court
sentenced defendant to 20 years at hard labor for his
conviction on Count 1, and further sentenced him to 40 years
at hard labor for his conviction on Count 2. The sentences
were ordered to run consecutively and without the benefit of
parole, probation or suspension of sentence. Defendant's
motion to reconsider sentence was denied. Defendant
thereafter filed a timely motion for appeal, which was
1: Indecent Behavior With A Juvenile
the mother of the victim who is the subject of Count 1, M.B.,
testified that in July of 2015, she lived on the West Bank of
Jefferson Parish. During that month she made contact with
defendant on a dating website, and he stayed at her
home for a few days with her, her two daughters and son. On
July 14, 2014, M.B. called M.C. at work and told her that
defendant made her feel "uncomfortable." Based on
that information, M.C. packed defendant's belongings and
asked him to leave her home the following morning, on July
15, 2014, before she went to work. That afternoon, upon
returning from work, M.C. was advised by M.B.'s
counselorthat defendant had sexually assaulted M.B.,
at which time she called the police to make a report. M.C.
spoke with three detectives who responded to the call. Later,
M.C. brought M.B. and her son to give an interview at the
Jefferson Children's Advocacy Center, and she also
brought M.B. to get a medical exam.
Alvin Farris, of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office,
testified that he responded to a call of inappropriate
behavior with a juvenile, M.B., on July 15, 2015. During his
interview with M.B., she told Deputy Farris that she was
"laying on her back on the sofa" watching T.V. when
defendant, an acquaintance of her mother, "got on top of
her and started rubbing on her legs and on her hips".
Defendant then put his hands under M.B.'s shirt and began
to rub her back before attempting to "put an unknown
object in her pants." M.B.'s brother was present
while the incident occurred. Defendant jumped off of M.B.
when she told defendant that she needed to stretch, and M.B.
went into the bathroom and locked the door until her
mother's friend came to babysit. Deputy Farris testified
that after he interviewed M.B. and her family, he contacted
the Detective Bureau in order to have a detective assigned to
Judd Harris, assigned to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's
Office Personal Violence Section, testified that he
investigated an allegation of child sexual abuse on July 15,
2015. In his interview with M.B., she recounted to him that,
after her mother had left for work, defendant "began to
tickle her, and then pinned her onto the couch putting all
his weight on her to where she couldn't move."
Defendant then placed his hands underneath M.B.'s shirt,
rubbing her back, before trying to remove her pajama bottoms.
M.B. told Detective Harris that defendant let her up after
she told him that she needed to use the restroom. Detective
Harris stated that he did not interview M.B.'s younger
sister, as he felt that she was "too young to get a
statement from." Although Detective Harris did not
interview M.B.'s younger brother at that time, he did set
up a forensic interview for M.B.'s brother at a later
date. M.B.'s mother provided Detective Harris with a copy
of defendant's profile from the online dating website, as
well as the make of defendant's vehicle and a partial
license plate number. Using that information, Detective
Harris was able to obtain defendant's full name. The day
after Detective Harris went to M.B.'s forensic interview
at the Jefferson Children's Advocacy Center on July 27,
2015, he issued a warrant for defendant's arrest on the
charge of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Defendant was
eventually arrested on October 29, 2015, in Mississippi.
nurse practitioner, Anne Troy, was accepted, by stipulation
of defendant, as an expert in the field of forensic
pediatrics and child abuse. Troy testified that she evaluated
M.B. at the Audrey Hepburn Care Center on August 5, 2015 and
December 14, 2015. An audio recording of her interview with
M.B. was played for the jury, and diagrams that showed where
M.B. indicated defendant had touched her body were also
introduced into evidence. Troy stated that, based upon the
history that M.B. had provided to her, she diagnosed child
Bergeron testified that she was employed as the forensic
interviewer at the Jefferson Children's Advocacy Center,
and conducted an interview with M.B. on July 27, 2015. She
also interviewed M.B.'s brother, J.B., on that date.
Audio and video of the interview with M.B. were played for
brother, J.B., was 11 years old at the time of trial. He
testified that he knew defendant, his mother's friend,
for a short time when he was nine years old. J.B. recalled a
time when he saw M.B. reclining on the couch and defendant
"laying right in front of her" facing M.B.
Defendant lifted up M.B.'s shirt and appeared to be
scratching her back. J.B. testified that he did not think, at
that time, that anything "wrong" was happening. At
some point, M.B. was no longer on the couch, and he later saw
M.B. in her room.
victim, M.B., was 13 years old at the time of trial. She
testified that when she was 11, she met defendant after her
mother began dating him. On one occasion, defendant was with
M.B. and her siblings while her mother was at work. At that
time, M.B. was on the couch in her living room watching T.V.
after taking a shower. Her brother was on the floor and her
younger sister was on an adjoining couch. Defendant was
sitting on the couch by M.B. and began to move closer toward
her. Defendant began "hugging" M.B. and rubbing her
back while she was "kind of laying down". At first
he touched outside of M.B.'s shirt, but then he
"went in" her shirt. Defendant asked M.B. if it
felt good. Defendant kept sliding his hand up M.B.'s back
and then he grabbed her leg and positioned it over his waist
while he kept "moving into different positions."
Defendant got up and "pulled something out of his
pants," which he then put into her underwear and tried
to move near M.B.'s vagina after he got back on top of
her. While M.B. never saw the object, she described it as
"round and a little cold or wet." M.B. told
defendant that she needed a drink of water, at which time she
got up from the couch then went from the kitchen, to the
bathroom, to her mother's room. She called her mother
after defendant left to tell her that the defendant made her
uncomfortable, but she did not tell her mother that night the
details of what had happened. The next day, M.B. told her
counselor and police about the incident.
cross-examination, M.B. stated that her mother's friend,
Jennifer, was at her home in her mother's room on the day
of the incident.
2: Sexual Battery
respect to Count 2, D.B., the mother of the victim, L.B.,
testified that from July of 2015 through December of 2015,
she lived on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. Near the end
of July in 2015, D.B. met defendant on a dating website and
began a relationship with him. Defendant first met D.B.'s
children weeks later, at the beginning of August. On one
occasion in August, after school had started, defendant
agreed to take D.B.'s two older children to the bus stop.
D.B. recalled that defendant told her that day that L.B. had
kissed him goodbye at the bus stop. When D.B. asked L.B.
about it, L.B. became embarrassed.
October of 2015, defendant called D.B. as he was being
arrested. D.B. asked a friend in law enforcement to find out
for her what defendant had been arrested for. At that time,
D.B. did not know who M.C. and M.B. were. However, defendant
had previously driven D.B. past M.C. and M.B.'s house and
told D.B. "about how he was staying with this girl for
like a week, and she lived right there." After his
arrest, defendant claimed that M.C. had him arrested because
he "owed her money." On the date of defendant's
arrest, after learning about what the criminal allegations
against defendant were, D.B. asked her two oldest children if
defendant had ever touched them inappropriately, to which
both replied "no." D.B. continued a relationship
with defendant after his arrest.
November of 2015, D.B. was notified by L.B.'s second
grade teacherabout an incident at school during which
L.B. had described sex and disclosed that her mother's
boyfriend had taken her pants off. When D.B. questioned L.B.
about what had happened, L.B. told her that on the day
defendant took her and her brother to the bus stop, defendant
brought L.B. into the bedroom,  "took her pants off and
touched her and kissed her." D.B. called the police
after the disclosure by L.B. Referring to old text messages
between herself and defendant, D.B. was able to determine the
time period when the abuse took place. L.B. spoke to police,
gave a forensic interview, and underwent a medical
evaluation. After L.B. had her forensic interview, D.B.
eventually went and spoke to M.B.'s mother, M.C., to tell
M.B. that defendant had sexually abused her daughter as well.
Gwen Valence, of the Westwego Police Department, testified
that she was dispatched to a complaint of sexual abuse on
November 11, 2015. Officer Valence spoke with both L.B. and
D.B. at that time, and concluded that inappropriate sexual
conduct had occurred between defendant and L.B. at a prior
undisclosed date. Following the interview, Officer Valence
notified the Detective Bureau. Officer Valence's
lieutenant also spoke with L.B., and he asked L.B. to
indicate on a stuffed animal where defendant had ...