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Clements v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 12, 2017

RONALD BENJAMIN CLEMENTS A/K/A RONALD CLEMENTS A/K/A RONALD B. CLEMENTS A/K/A BEN CLEMENTS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/07/2016

         PRENTISS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES LAMAR ROBERTS JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ROBERT SNEED LAHER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE E. KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: J. TRENT KELLY

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          GRIFFIS, P.J.

         ¶1. Ronald Clements was convicted of child fondling and sentenced to serve fifteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with seven years suspended, followed by five years of post-release supervision. He was ordered to pay all court costs, a fine in the amount of $1, 000, $200 to the Prentiss County Sheriff's Department Investigative Fund, $1, 000 to the Mississippi Children's Trust Fund, and $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victim's Compensation Fund. Clements was further ordered to register as a sex offender and to have no contact with the child or the child's family.

         ¶2. Clements did not file any post-trial motions. Nevertheless, he appeals his conviction and challenges the sufficiency and weight of the evidence. We find these issues are procedurally barred and without merit. Accordingly, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. Clements was indicted on one count of child fondling. Specifically, the indictment charged Clements as follows:

[O]n or about or between the dates of October 1, 2012[, ] and December 1, 2012, [Clements] did wilfully, unlawfully[, ] and feloniously, being a person above the age of 18 years, for purpose of gratifying his lust or indulging his depraved, licentious sexual desires, handle, touch[, ] and/or rub, with his hands or other parts of his body, [Sara Gates, [1] a child under . . . 16 years of age, her birth date being September 16, 2006, with or without her consent, in violation of Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 97-5-23 . . . .

         ¶4. At trial, the State called six witnesses. Linda Pickering, Sara's mother, was the first to testify. Pickering testified that Sara's date of birth was September 16, 2006, and that Sara was six years old and in kindergarten in the fall of 2012.

         ¶5. Pickering further testified that in the fall of 2012, she was living with Clements and her two children. At that time, Pickering worked at the Chevron from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sara and her brother would go to their grandmother's house after school, and Clements would pick them up three to four times a week. Pickering stated Clements was alone with the children nearly every night.

         ¶6. Pickering explained that on Christmas Eve 2012, she overheard her nephew, Charlie, say to Sara, "last night after we had sex." Pickering called her sister and subsequently took the children to her sister's house to find out what was going on. Charlie advised that he learned of sex from Sara. When Pickering asked Sara to explain, Sara responded that she could not tell because her daddy would get mad. Upon further questioning, Sara told Pickering that "daddy made [her] kiss his wee-wee." When asked if she meant Clements, Sara stated yes.

         ¶7. Pickering testified that when she asked Sara if Clements had hurt her, Sara responded, no, "he just used the tickly thing." Sara described the tickly thing as "the thing behind the clothes in the drawer." Pickering advised that the "tickly thing" was a vibrator that was kept in a drawer under some clothes. Pickering further advised that she and Clements were the only ones who knew where the vibrator was kept.

         ¶8. Pickering immediately reported the allegations to the sheriff's department and was instructed to wait until after the holidays to speak to the Department of Human Services (DHS). On December 26, 2012, Pickering took Sara to DHS, where Sara was interviewed outside of Pickering's presence. Pickering further took Sara for a forensic interview and got Sara into therapy.

         ¶9. Pickering testified that she believed her daughter and that Sara's story never changed. Importantly, Pickering testified that Sara never advised that anyone other than Clements touched her.

         ¶10. Candace Scott, Pickering's sister, testified that her son, Charlie, was "about three months older than [Sara]." Scott stated that she, along with her husband and Pickering, talked to Charlie about what Pickering had overheard him say to Sara. Charlie advised that Sara "showed him how to have sex the night before" and that they "pulled their clothes down and touched each other and kissed." When asked if she ever questioned Charlie again about what had happened with Sara, Scott responded, "[a] few times, but it was always [Sara] showed him, so the story never changed." Scott explained that according to Charlie, it only happened that one time.

         ¶11. Detective Derrick Hester, a criminal investigator with the Prentiss County Sheriff's Department, testified that on December 24, 2012, he received a sexual-abuse complaint from Pickering regarding Sara. He subsequently met with Pickering on December 26th, during which Pickering reported that Clements, her boyfriend, had fondled and molested her child. Detective Hester contacted DHS to create a safety plan and to set up a forensic interview.

         ¶12. Detective Hester was not present for the forensic interview, but reviewed the audio and video recordings as part of his investigation. Detective Hester subsequently had a warrant issued for Clements and contacted him directly. Clements met with Detective Hester at his office where Clements was interviewed and arrested.

         ¶13. Joanna Wilbanks, a family protection specialist with the Prentiss County DHS, who handles child-sexual-abuse cases, met with Pickering and Sara following the receipt of a report on December 26, 2012. During the meeting, Sara disclosed, without being asked, that "her dad made her suck down there" and pointed to her private ...


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