OF JUDGMENT: 03/08/2017
JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. HON. MICHAEL H. WARD JUDGE.
COURT ATTORNEYS: NESHONDRIA DEQUANDRA ELLERBY GEORGE RANDALL
HUFFMAN FRANK PHILIP WITTMANN, IV ROBERT KEITH MILLER DAVID
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL W. CROSBY
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY:
KAYLYN HAVRILLA McCLINTON
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ANGEL DANIELLE PATANO-MYERS
RANDOLPH, C.J., MAXWELL AND BEAM, JJ.
A jury found Jason McGrath guilty of four counts of sexual
battery by a person in a position of trust and one count of
touching a child for lustful purposes. The charges stemmed
from McGrath's sexual assault and molestation of his
stepdaughter, M. M. He was sentenced to what amounts to forty
years' imprisonment. On appeal, McGrath argues the trial
judge wrongly admitted Rule 404(b) evidence of McGrath's
previous sexual assaults and molestations of a different
stepdaughter and his adopted daughter. We disagree.
After hearing from both previous victims and the parties, the
judge found McGrath's earlier sexual assaults and
molestations were relevant to show McGrath's intent,
motive, opportunity, knowledge, and absence of mistake. The
judge admitted this evidence under Rule 404(b), having deemed
it more probative than prejudicial under Rule 403. We find
there were several legitimate purposes supporting these
admissions, and we see no abuse of discretion in these
rulings. We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
Rape and Sexual Assault
On the morning of June 23, 2014, thirteen-year-old M. M.
awoke after receiving a text message from her stepfather,
McGrath. The message asked her to come to the living room. M.
M. walked to the living room and sat on the couch next to
McGrath. When she did, McGrath reached over and began
touching M. M.'s vagina with his hand. He eventually put
his finger inside M. M.'s vagina. M. M. got up from the
couch and went into the kitchen. McGrath followed her. Once
there, he mixed some vodka with cranberry juice, handed the
drink to her, and told her she was "better when
M. M. ate some food, drank some of the cocktail McGrath had
made, and returned to her bedroom. Soon after, McGrath
entered M. M.'s room. He removed her clothes and
performed oral sex on her. He then climbed on top of M. M.
and had sexual intercourse with her. Afterwards, McGrath
apologized. And before leaving M.M.'s room, he suggested
they act like it never happened. But just a few hours later,
when both McGrath and M. M. were back in the living room,
McGrath asked M. M. if she had ever performed oral sex. She
said she had not. McGrath then grabbed M. M. by her
shoulders, pushed her to the floor, and forced her to perform
oral sex on him.
The next day, M. M. gave her mother a brief description of
what McGrath had done. This prompted M. M.'s mother to
take M. M. to the hospital, where the young girl gave a nurse
a written statement detailing McGrath's sexual abuse.
Indictment and Trial
McGrath was indicted on April 10, 2015. He was charged with
four counts of sexual battery by a person in a position of
trust and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes.
McGrath was also under indictment in another sexual-abuse
case. In that case, he was charged with sexually assaulting
his former stepdaughter, A. D., between 2010 and 2011. And
several months before trial in the present case, the State
filed a motion-under Mississippi Rule of Evidence
404(b)-seeking to admit testimony from A. D. about her past
sexual abuse by McGrath.
At a February 16, 2017 hearing, the State proffered A.
D.'s testimony and heard argument from the State and
McGrath. Afterwards, the judge ruled that evidence McGrath
had forced then-nine-year-old A. D. to perform oral sex on
him was more probative than prejudicial under Rule 403. So he
admitted it in this case under Rule ...