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State v. Conklin

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 28, 2019


          On Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 544, 954 Honorable August J. Hand, Judge Presiding

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney Matthew Caplan Butch Wilson Assistant District Attorney Covington, LA Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          Jane L. Beebe Attorney for Defendant -Appellant, Louisiana Appellate Project Jack Calvin Conklin New Orleans, LA


          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         Defendant, Jack Conklin, was charged by bill of indictment with aggravated rape (count one), a violation of La. R.S. 14:42, [1] sexual battery of a victim younger than thirteen (count two), a violation of La. R.S. 14:43.1(C)(2), and production of pornography involving juveniles (count three), a violation of La. R.S. 14:81.1. He pled not guilty on all three counts. Defendant filed motions to suppress his identification, arrest, statements, and evidence, which were denied. After a trial by jury, defendant was found guilty as charged. The trial court denied defendant's motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. Defendant waived sentencing delays, and the court imposed concurrent terms of life on count one, fifty years on count two, and fifty years on count three, all at hard labor, to be served without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. The trial court also denied defendant's motion for reconsideration of sentence. Defendant now appeals.


         Though defendant was convicted of three offenses stemming from the ongoing abuse of A.R.[2] between June 5, 2012 and February 14, 2013, defendant's first assignment of error regarding his motion to suppress involves facts stemming from a largely unrelated event occurring about seven months later. Police involvement in that later event led to a secondary investigation concluding in the indictments for which defendant was ultimately convicted. The following facts were adduced at a suppression hearing conducted on August 24, 2017.

         On September 27, 2013, while at their home on Moonraker Drive in Slidell, Mr. and Mrs. Dobson witnessed a suspicious vehicle slowly and repeatedly passing and taking photographs of their home. After being alerted by their daughter that the vehicle passed by again, Mr. Dobson followed the driver, defendant, to his residence, and had a conversation with him. During their encounter at defendant's home, defendant told Mr. Dobson he had witnessed two young juveniles in the Dobsons' backyard engaging in sexual intercourse. Mr. Dobson had Mrs. Dobson bring their child over to see if defendant could identify whether or not she was one of the juveniles he claimed to have seen in the Dobsons' backyard. Defendant kept referring to her as "Zoey," despite Mrs. Dobson telling him that was not her name. Defendant told Mr. Dobson he keeps candy and toys in his truck for when he sees children, and he made several attempts to engage the Dobsons' seven-year-old daughter in conversation.

         While at defendant's house, Mrs. Dobson noticed that he had children's toys and bicycles in his garage, even though he had no children. Mrs. Dobson also noted that defendant told her not to worry about his photograph taking because he liked to take photographs of birds. Defendant invited her daughter, who he referred to as "Zoey," to come by any time and to come back the next day to fish and ride bicycles. Defendant told Mrs. Dobson that he knew how long the Dobsons had been at their Moonraker Drive address and that "Zoey" liked to fish. Mrs. Dobson reported defendant seemed very focused on her daughter's movements.

         When the Dobsons returned home, they notified the police. Thereafter, Deputy Brett Posner of the St. Tammany Sheriffs Office ("STSO") was dispatched to the Dobsons' home. The Dobsons told Dep. Posner that their daughter had been playing outside at the time, and the driver was holding the phone out of the vehicle window and appeared to be taking pictures. Their neighbor, Mr. Bouche, corroborated the story, saying he witnessed the suspect vehicle driving past with the driver holding a phone outside of the window.

         The Dobsons told Det. Posner about their conversation with defendant and gave him the address where they spoke with defendant. Also, Mrs. Dobson reported to Dep. Posner that she had been called by the Office of Child Services ("OCS") twice over the previous two days asking if she had a nine-year-old daughter named "Zoey" and informing her that there were reports of children having sex in their backyard. Det. Posner noted that the Dobsons were visibly shaken and that Mr. Bouche appeared to be alarmed or scared.

         Dep. Posner left the Dobsons' home on Moonraker Drive and drove to the address given to him by the Dobsons. Upon his arrival, Dep. Posner encountered defendant and informed him of his Miranda[3] rights. Defendant waived his rights. When confronted with the allegation that he had been driving past the Dobsons' house taking photographs, defendant admitted he had driven past twice and had taken photographs. Defendant explained he was attempting to find the address of a house upon which he claimed to have made an OCS report in the weeks before. Specifically, defendant claimed to have witnessed indecent behavior between juveniles in the backyard. Defendant showed Dep. Posner the photos he had taken of the Moonraker Drive house on his phone.

         After having talked about the incident with the Dobsons and their neighbor, Mr. Bouche, seeing their reactions and demeanor, along with defendant's later corroboration of some of their details, Dep. Posner found probable cause that defendant had committed the offense of stalking and arrested him.

         In court, Dep. Posner identified the defendant as the man he arrested that day. Additionally, after the deputy viewed copies of the photographs recovered from defendant's phone, he Deputy Posner said the photographs were low quality and ...

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