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Singleton v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 25, 2014

LARRY GENE SINGLETON A/K/A LARRY SINGLETON A/K/A LARRY G. SINGLETON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/21/2013.

Page 1047

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TATE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES MCCLURE III. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF COUNTS I AND V, GRATIFICATION OF LUST, AND SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS ON EACH COUNT; COUNTS II, III, AND IV, SEXUAL BATTERY OF A CHILD UNDER FOURTEEN YEARS OF AGE, AND SENTENCED TO TWENTY YEARS ON EACH COUNT; COUNTS VI, VII, AND VIII, SEXUAL BATTERY OF A CHILD AT LEAST FOURTEEN BUT UNDER SIXTEEN YEARS OF AGE, AND SENTENCED TO TWENTY YEARS ON EACH COUNT; AND COUNTS IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, AND XVIII, POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, AND SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS ON EACH COUNT, WITH THE SENTENCE IMPOSED IN COUNT IX TO RUN CONSECUTIVELY WITH SENTENCES IMPOSED IN COUNTS I THROUGH VIII, AND WITH THE SENTENCES IN ALL OTHER COUNTS TO RUN CONCURRENTLY WITH ONE ANOTHER, ALL IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITH CREDIT FOR 353 DAYS SERVED, AND TO PAY $1,000 TO THE MISSISSIPPI CHILDREN'S TRUST FUND AND A $50,000 FINE FOR EACH OF COUNTS IX THROUGH XVIII, WITH $50,000 SUSPENDED FOR EACH OF COUNTS IX THROUGH XVIII.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: GEORGE T. HOLMES, BENJAMIN ALLEN SUBER.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: MELANIE DOTSON THOMAS.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND ISHEE, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1048

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶1. Larry Gene Singleton was convicted of gratification of lust, sexual battery of a child under fourteen years of age, sexual battery of a child at least fourteen but under sixteen years of age, and possession of child pornography under Mississippi Code Annotated sections 97-5-23, 97-3-95(1)(d), 97-3-95(1)(c), and 97-5-33(5), respectively. Singleton argues the trial court erred when it: (1) denied Singleton's motion to sever certain counts in the indictment; (2) admitted Exhibit 5 into evidence; and (3) denied Singleton's motion to suppress his custodial statement. We find no error and affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. From approximately March 2005 to October 2012, Singleton engaged in a sexual relationship with Daniel Doe,[1] a child who lived next door to Singleton. Daniel first went to Singleton's house to play with Singleton's grandson and to do odd chores. When Daniel turned eleven, however, the nature of the relationship changed.

¶3. Initially, Singleton showed Daniel his genitalia and asked to see Daniel's. Singleton told Daniel " that it was normal for guys to practice for when a girl comes around" and began " stroking [Daniel] and stuff like that." The physical contact escalated when Singleton started performing oral and anal sex with Daniel. Contemporaneously to some of these earlier acts, Singleton took pictures of a nude, prepubescent Daniel.

¶4. As Daniel got older, Singleton bribed him with alcohol, cigarettes, and pornography in exchange for sex, with the final encounter occurring in October 2012. Shortly thereafter, Daniel contacted the police regarding the acts perpetrated by Singleton.

¶5. On November 28, 2012, investigators with the Tate County Sheriff's Department arranged for a sting operation. Daniel called Singleton to talk about the

Page 1049

sexual abuse while investigators listened to and recorded the telephone conversation.

¶6. During the phone conversation, Singleton confirmed some of the abuse, gave Daniel advice about sex, and commented on the changes in Daniel's body from when he was a child. Singleton also admitted he erased all of the pictures he took of Daniel years earlier. At the end of the conversation, Singleton asked if Daniel recorded the conversation and asked to see him again soon.

¶7. Based on Daniel's statement and the recorded phone conversation, the Tate County Sheriff's Department executed search and arrest warrants for Singleton on December 3, 2012. Singleton was arrested, and law enforcement seized a personal computer and pornographic pictures from his home.

¶8. At the time of his arrest, Singleton told the officers he needed his medication because he suffered from high blood pressure, a heart condition, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Singleton was allowed to bring his medication with him and, once at the jail, a nurse evaluated Singleton. The nurse noted Singleton's noncompliance with certain medications, but did not observe any other medical abnormalities.

¶9. Investigators Bill Ellis and Stephanie Huddleston interrogated Singleton following his medical evaluation. Singleton remained talkative and relaxed during the questioning. At no point did Singleton indicate he felt ill, ask for the interrogation to stop, or state that he wanted an attorney present.

¶10. Singleton continued to deny all allegations against him until the investigators played the recorded phone conversation between Singleton and Daniel. After hearing the recording, Singleton confirmed the phone number Daniel called was his and the man on the recording sounded similar to him. Singleton eventually admitted the allegations made against him.

¶11. Prior to his trial, Singleton filed a motion to suppress his custodial statement and a motion to sever certain counts in the indictment. On October 31, 2013, the trial court held evidentiary hearings and ultimately denied both motions.

¶12. Singleton was tried on November 18 and 19, 2013. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all eighteen counts. On November 21, 2013, the trial court sentenced Singleton to serve thirty years in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and denied Singleton's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, in the alternative, a new trial. Singleton now appeals.

ANALYSIS

1. Whether the trial court erred in denying Singleton's motion to sever the charges for possession of child pornography from the charges for sexual ...


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