RONALD BENJAMIN CLEMENTS A/K/A RONALD CLEMENTS A/K/A RONALD B. CLEMENTS A/K/A BEN CLEMENTS APPELLANT
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 10/07/2016
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
GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.
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.
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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,
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 . . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...