YOGINDER DANDASS A/K/A YOGINEER DANDASS A/K/A YOGI DANDASS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 08/07/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. LEE SORRELS COLEMAN.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MERRIDA COXWELL.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
LAURA HOGAN TEDDER.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: FORREST ALLGOOD.
IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
Yoginder Dandass was convicted of sexual battery against his
adoptive daughter, Sara. The trial court sentenced Dandass to a
term of twenty-five years in the custody of Mississippi
Department of Corrections, with five years suspended. Dandass
appeals his conviction and sentence on numerous grounds.
Finding no error, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Dandass and his wife, Wendy, adopted Sara when she was nine
years old. Sara was living in a Russian orphanage when she
was adopted. The Dandasses also had two natural children of
their own. Sara knew little English and was provided a
private tutor for a few months before she was brought to the
United States. At trial, Sara testified that the language
barrier remained a problem for her. She had not had a family
before being adopted and did not know how to function in one.
She testified that she was punished often and did not
understand what was expected of her.
Sara was brought to Starkville and placed in public school,
but still battled with a language barrier. Sara testified
that her relationship with her father began to change as she
grew older. According to Sara, Dandass initiated sexual
contact with her when she was around eleven years old.
Dandass began with asking her to touch him while he was
wearing clothes. Sara testified that the first incident of
sexual abuse occurred when she was invited to a sleepover at
her friend Katya's home. Katya spoke Russian and helped
Sara translate when she first arrived to Starkville.
Sara testified that she went to ask her parents for
permission to spend the night at Katya's house, but only
her father was at home. She asked him if she could spend the
night at her friend's house, and he replied by telling
Sara to hang up her phone. Sara complied and Dandass took
Sara's hand and placed it in his genital area. Dandass
proceeded to take his shirt and shorts off and told Sara to
place her hand on his penis. According to Sara, she knew that
if she did not, her father would not allow her to go to her
Sara testified that her father had her perform oral sex on
him many times. The sexual contact continued until Sara was
seventeen. Sara testified that she performed the acts out of
fear and manipulation. She also testified that she was not
physically forced to perform the sexual acts on her father.
She could leave his room and refuse to perform the acts, but
she knew there would be consequences if she left. According
to Sara, Dandass would punish her for refusing his sexual
advances by taking away her art supplies and sometimes
slapping her. Sara did not report her sexual contact with
Dandass to the police or any of her friends.
The sexual contact between Dandass and Sara always occurred
in his and Wendy's bedroom, when the family was away.
Most of the contact consisted of oral sex and touching, but
Dandass attempted to initiate vaginal intercourse on one
occasion. Sara testified that she refused. According to Sara,
she also saw Dandass looking at provocative pictures of her
on his computer.
Sara did not bond well with her adoptive family. She did not
enjoy many of the activities that they engaged in, and her
personality did not mesh well with her mother's
personality. According to Sara, she always wanted a strong
relationship with her mother, but her mother always pushed
At trial, Dandass denied having any sexual contact with Sara.
He claimed to have noticed some tension between Sara and the
rest of the family, but had not realized the extent of the
friction until Sara was in the eleventh grade. According to
Dandass, her desire to attend the Savannah College of Art and
Design (SCAD) added to the tension. Tuition at SCAD was
expensive, and Dandass noted that the school was
unaccredited. Dandass wanted Sara to attend Mississippi State
University where Sara could attend for free, since both
Dandass and his wife worked there.
Dandass contended that Sara's desire to attend SCAD
increased once her high-school art teacher promised her a
full scholarship. Dandass testified that he attempted to
bring Sara off "cloud nine" because SCAD was
expensive, and it was almost impossible that her art teacher
could procure a full scholarship for her. Dandass contended
that he reinforced the option of Sara attending Mississippi
State University, because it would be free to attend, and she
could live at home with the family. According to Dandass,
Sara did not relent on her desire to attend SCAD. Dandass
further testified that Sara idolized her art teacher, and her
desire to attend SCAD was cemented when she began dating the
art teacher's son.
Dandass did not have a favorable opinion of Sara's
boyfriend. Dandass contended that Sara's boyfriend was
the person who made the initial allegations against him,
because of Dandass's dislike of him. The State objected
to this statement, since the court had previously ruled that
Sara's romantic past was improper to discuss. The court
sustained the objection. Dandass's theory of the case was
that Sara fabricated the sexual-abuse allegations in
retaliation for Dandass discouraging her attendance to SCAD
and to get out of the Dandass family home.
At trial, Wendy claimed that Sara fit in well with the family
at first but did not bond with the family over time.
According to Wendy, the friction increased as Sara aged, and
the situation worsened when Sara began dating her high-school
art teacher's son. Wendy agreed with Dandass that much of
the tension with Sara related to her desire to attend SCAD.
During the State's case-in-chief, it introduced two
photos of Sara in provocative poses. Sara previously
testified that Dandass asked her to pose provocatively in the
photos, which were taken by Sara's friend. To rebut those
claims, the defense sought to have a forensic specialist,
Greg Bott, testify that the "cookies" on the family
computer-which was used by all members of the household-were
sexual in nature from pornographic websites. The defense
sought to use Bott's testimony to argue that this search
history provided an alternative source for Sara's sexual
knowledge, and gave her the desire to take provocative
photos. The trial court found the defense's evidence
irrelevant and inadmissible, since the defense could not
prove that it was Sara who went to those pornographic
The defense also sought to introduce a painting that Sara
made for Dandass at trial. The defense's theory was that
Sara would not have painted anything for Dandass if he was
sexually abusing her. The trial court also found the painting
to be irrelevant, since it could not prove or disprove the
allegations of sexual abuse.
Dandass asserts five assignments of error on appeal. First,
he asserts that the State was allowed to bolster the
victim's testimony with hearsay. Second, he argues that
the State's closing argument infringed on his right to a
fair trial. Third, the trial court erred in admitting the
State's improper rebuttal evidence, and denying
Dandass's rebuttal evidence. Fourth, the verdict was
against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Fifth, the
trial court erred by excluding expert testimony and evidence
that would support Dandass's case- in-chief. Finding no
error we affirm.
Whether the State impermissibly bolstered Sara's
testimony with the testimony of other
Whether testimony by Sara's friend constituted
Dandass asserts that the trial court committed reversible
error when it allowed Sara's friend Hannah to testify
regarding provocative photos she allegedly took at
Dandass's behest. According to Hannah, Dandass told Sara
to take pictures of herself, because he believed that she
could be a model. Sara went to Hannah's home, and Hannah
testified that she took pictures of Sara, including nude
photos. The defense objected to Hannah's testimony on the
ground that it was hearsay. Nevertheless, the trial court
overruled the objection, finding that her testimony was
admissible under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B).
"This Court's standard of review for the admission
of evidence is abuse of discretion." Hobgood v.
State, 926 So.2d 847, 853 (¶16) (Miss. 2006)
(citing Clark v. State, 891 So.2d 136, 139
(¶11) (Miss. 2004)). "Therefore, unless that
discretion is abused this Court should not overturn the trial
court's ruling." Id. Hearsay is defined as
"a statement, other than one made by the declarant while
testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to
prove the truth of the matter" and is generally not
admissible at trial. Moss v. State, 977 So.2d 1201,
1207 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2007). One exception to the
general rule barring hearsay testimony is found in Rule
Rule 801(d)(1)(B) permits the introduction of a prior
consistent statement if (1) the declarant has testified at
the trial and been subject to cross-examination, (2) the
testimony of the witness as to the prior statement was
consistent with the declarant's testimony as a witness,
[and] (3) the prior statement was offered to rebut an express
or implied charge against the declarant of recent fabrication
or improper influence or motive.
Moss, 977 So.2d at 1207 (¶5).
Dandass argues that since Sara was not impeached by the
defense regarding whether Dandass asked her to take the
pictures, Hannah's testimony was inadmissible hearsay,
and it should not have been admitted into evidence. Dandass
also contends that the hearsay exception does not apply since
the allegations against Dandass were not a recent