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State v. Jenkins

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

April 3, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RONJI J. JENKINS, JR.

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-6893, DIVISION "M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Anne M. Wallis Douglas W. Freese Lindsay L. Truhe

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, RONJI J. JENKINS, JR. Cynthia K. Meyer

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Marc E. Johnson, and Robert A. Chaisson

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE.

         Defendant, Ronji Jenkins, Jr., appeals his conviction and sentence for obscenity. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the admission of other crimes evidence at trial. While we agree with defendant's argument that the evidence was improperly admitted, we find that its admission was harmless and does not require reversal of defendant's conviction. Accordingly, for the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence and remand the matter for the correction of the uniform commitment order as noted herein.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 28, 2016, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant with obscenity, in violation of La. R.S. 14:106. Defendant pled not guilty at his arraignment, and the matter subsequently proceeded to trial before a six-person jury on January 3, 2018. After considering the evidence presented, the jury found defendant guilty as charged. On March 5, 2018, the trial court denied defendant's motion for new trial, and after a waiver of delays, sentenced defendant to three years imprisonment at hard labor.

         Thereafter, on March 8, 2018, the court conducted a hearing on the multiple offender bill of information previously filed by the State. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found defendant to be a third felony offender, vacated defendant's original sentence, and sentenced him, pursuant to La. R.S. 15:529.1, to six years imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence. Defendant now appeals.[1]

         FACTS

         In the present case, the bill of information alleged that defendant committed obscenity by exposing his genitals in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. Two different versions of this incident were presented at trial.

         According to Yashonda Lee, a correctional officer at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, she saw defendant masturbating on October 27, 2016, which was her first day on the job. Officer Lee explained that on the morning of the incident, she was inside the guard booth and was able to see defendant's cell from her location. As she was visually surveying the pod area, she felt someone staring at her. Officer Lee looked up and observed defendant standing between his toilet and the end of his bunk "stroking his fully eject [sic] penis in an up and down motion and looking, like literally staring me down." Officer Lee gestured towards defendant to stop; however, defendant continued masturbating while looking at her.[2]

         During her testimony, Officer Lee confirmed that defendant was not attempting to hide his genitals from view in any way, that it was no accident that she was able to see him masturbate, and that she found defendant's actions offensive. Officer Lee explained that she reported the occurrence to the officer in charge of her training, who called the incident in but did not turn around to see what defendant was doing. By the time the officers responded to defendant's cell, he had pulled up his jumpsuit and was in his bed as if nothing had happened.

         In contrast to the testimony of Officer Lee, defendant denied masturbating in front of her. Rather, defendant explained that he woke up with a semi-erect penis and proceeded to the toilet to urinate. Defendant acknowledged that he and Officer Lee could see each other while he was standing at the toilet but insisted he was not watching her and did not make eye contact. After he was finished urinating, he had "to shake [his penis] before" he "put it up." ...


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