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Internet Explorer 11 is no longer supported. Defendant-Appellant Reo Benally was convicted by a jury of one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor under the age of sixteen while in Grandwoman sex White Mesa United States Country, in violation of 18 U. Benally was sentenced to months' imprisonment to be followed by five years' supervised release. Benally appeals his conviction, arguing the district court improperly admitted the testimony of four witnesses regarding Benally's prior acts of sexual assault. This court takes jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.
We conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence and affirm Benally's conviction. The events giving rise to the charged conduct occurred while Benally was acting as guardian to his twelve year old granddaughter, N. Benally also had custody of two of his natural children, J. On August 23,Benally took all five children swimming at a river near the family sheep farm on the Navajo reservation in White Mesa, Utah. The group spent the night in the family's one-room hogan. According to N.
At some point during the night, N. She claimed to have pushed Benally away with her legs and to have grabbed the knife and thrown it across the room. She claimed that at least some of the other children were awake and crying. She said he gave her twenty-two dollars and asked her not to disclose the events that had transpired. Benally ultimately did not leave because J.
The other young children present during the alleged assault also testified at trial. None had a very detailed recollection of the incident, which occurred almost three years earlier, but most remembered either seeing Benally without his clothes on top of N. Several indicated they were scared or crying or heard N. The testimony of J. After returning to Benally's home, N. A few days later, she told another neighbor, Georginda Pierce, that Benally had almost raped her and repeated the same allegations to Pierce's mother, Lucinda Pierce.
Lucinda Pierce called N. She also admitted she omitted details when initially interviewed by defense investigators because other children were present. Physical examinations of N. Georginda Pierce testified that, at the time N.
A nurse at Child Haven who saw N. Thirteen days after the incident, the Indian Health Service doctor who examined N. A nurse who examined N. There was also testimony at trial about N. Virginia S. She agreed that, if N. The nurse at Child Haven who examined N. Another Child Haven employee indicated N. A social worker from the school N. Finally, evidence of four of Benally's other sexual assault and child molestation crimes was admitted under Federal Rules of Evidence and The admission of this evidence is the sole issue on appeal.
Ruling on Benally's motion in limine to exclude the prior-crimes evidence, the court admitted evidence of three of Benally's prior offenses without an evidentiary hearing because each had resulted in a conviction and the court determined their probative value was not substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, pursuant to Rule The court also ultimately admitted evidence of a fourth incident involving the rape of Rowena, Benally's daughter and N.
Betty R. She stated that when she was about twenty years old, about forty years earlier, Benally came to her house when she was home alone babysitting, chased her into a sheep corral about a half a mile from her home, pushed her and held her down, hit her in the eye and on the cheek, and had sexual intercourse with her. Benally was charged with rape, but pleaded guilty to assault and battery. The rape charge was dismissed. Sarah J. She indicated that, when she was thirteen, or about forty years prior to the current trial, Benally came to her home, threw her on the floor, and had forcible sexual intercourse with her.
Benally pleaded guilty to rape. Virginia, Benally's sister, testified that, when she was thirteen or fourteen, she lived Grandwoman sex White Mesa United States the sheep camp with her mother. After a drunken Benally and their mother argued, Virginia left the family home and ran toward a nearby hill. Benally followed Virginia down the hill, stabbed her in the arm with a can opener, and pushed her back up the hill and into his truck.
He drove a mile or two, put her in the back of the truck and had sexual intercourse with her. Her mother came to retrieve her and took her to a hospital where she spoke with police. Benally was ultimately convicted by a jury of raping his sister. Rowena, N. Benally had picked up Rowena and her brother, Stanford, from school on a Friday.
He took them to the sheep camp and hogan in which the alleged assault against N. Benally had been drinking and asked Rowena if she would have sex with him. Rowena tried to escape to her grandmother's house next door by asking if she could go outside to the bathroom, but Benally accompanied her outside. When Rowena and Benally re-entered the hogan, Benally instructed Rowena to lie on his bed and had sexual intercourse with her. Rowena testified she told her grandmother and stepmother about the incident, but that neither did anything to help her. She indicated her brother, Stanford, had been present during the rape.
Later in the trial, Stanford corroborated Rowena's testimony. No criminal charges were ever filed. Before the testimony regarding the prior incidents began, the court instructed the jury as follows:. Members of the jury, I want to give you a cautionary instruction now because we are about to hear some evidence with this witness and two witnesses that will follow after her, some evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses of sexual assault or child molestation.
In a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of an offense of sexual assault or child molestation, evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses of sexual assault or child molestation is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant. However, evidence of a prior offense on its own is not sufficient to prove the defendant guilty of the crime charged in the indictment. Bear in mind as you consider this evidence, at all times the government has the burden of proving that the defendant committed each of the elements of the offense charged in the indictment.
I remind you that the defendant is not on trial for any act, conduct or offense not charged in the indictment.
However, evidence of a prior offense on its own is not sufficient to prove the defendant guilty of the crime charged in the Indictment. Bear in mind as you consider this evidence at all times, the government has the burden of proving that the defendant committed each of the elements of the offense charged in the Indictment. I remind you that the defendant is not on trial for any act, conduct, or offense not charged in the Indictment. Benally argues the prior acts have little probative value because they are dissimilar from the alleged assault involving N.
Benally also argues the prior incidents all occurred when he was an alcoholic and that he no longer drinks. Benally contends the admission of the evidence prejudiced the jury and amounted to error that was not harmless. This court reviews a district court's evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Stiger, F. If this court concludes the admission of evidence was erroneous, it must then consider whether the error was harmless. Federal Rules of Evidence and address propensity evidence in the context of sexual assault and child molestation.
These rules provide an exception to the general rule codified in Rule awhich prohibits the admission of evidence for the purpose of showing a defendant's propensity to commit bad acts. See United States v. Guardia, F. Meacham, F. Under Guardia and United States v. McHorse, F. The Grandwoman sex White Mesa United States court must determine 1 the defendant is accused of a crime involving sexual assault or child molestation, 2 the evidence proffered is evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses involving sexual assault or child molestation, and 3 the evidence is relevant.
In United States v. Enjady, F. The district court should then consider:. To further assist district courts in analyzing probativeness under the second Enjady factor, the Guardia court enumerated considerations which may influence the court's analysis, including 1 the similarity of the prior acts and the charged acts, 2 the time lapse between the other acts and the charged acts, 3 the frequency of the prior acts, 4 the occurrence of intervening events, and 5 the need for evidence beyond the defendant's and alleged victim's testimony.
Castillo, F. The district court fulfilled that obligation in this case. It carefully addressed the Enjady and Guardia factors and reached a permissible conclusion regarding the admissibility of the testimonial evidence. The district court first determined Benally's prior conduct was relevant and the other Guardia threshold requirements had been met.
The court then methodically addressed the Enjady factors to determine whether the evidence was excludable under Rule As to the first three incidents, the court concluded the fact of Benally's rape and assault and battery convictions satisfied the first Enjady factor for the incidents involving Virginia, Sarah, and Betty, respectively. In connection with the alleged incident involving Rowena, the court concluded an evidentiary hearing was necessary to determine, as a preliminary matter, whether a jury could find by a preponderance of the evidence that Benally raped Rowena.
The court looked to the Guardia court's guidance in focusing its probativeness analysis. See Guardia, F. Most ificant in the court's determination that the evidence was highly probative was the similarity between the current charge and the prior acts.
The court stated. The incidents which the government seeks to introduce contain a of similarities to the incident alleged in Grandwoman sex White Mesa United States case. The incidents involve young females, mostly young female family members. The individuals involved in the prior incidents are similar in age to each other and are similar in age to the individual involved in the charged offense. Additionally, many of the incidents involved either the use of force or a weapon, as did the charged incident. Thus, the similarity of these incidents shows that they are highly probative.
As to the other considerations enumerated in Guardia regarding the probative value of the testimony, the court acknowledged the ificant time lapse between the incidents involving Virginia, Sarah, and Betty, and the charged conduct involving N. The court also stated there had been no intervening events between the first cluster of assaults, the alleged incident involving Rowena, and the charged conduct involving N.
The court next returned to its Enjady analysis, stating the material fact at issue, whether the alleged assault against N. Finally, the court stated it did not believe the introduction of the evidence would be so time consuming as to warrant its exclusion. Based on its evaluation of all the Enjady factors, the court concluded the probative value of the evidence at issue in the incidents involving Virginia, Sarah, and Betty was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Benally.
In a separate proceeding, the court held an evidentiary hearing to determine the admissibility of Rowena's testimony regarding her alleged rape by Benally. After hearing from Rowena, the court determined a jury could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the rape had occurred, satisfying Enjady' s threshold requirement.
The court then, once again, recited the Enjady factors and stated Rowena's testimony would be admitted.
Considering the record as a whole, this court sees nothing to suggest the district court abused its discretion when ruling on the admissibility of the testimony of Benally's four prior victims. Benally has not presented any argument regarding the application of the Enjady factors or Guardia considerations that persuades us otherwise. Contrary to Benally's assertions, the prior incidents contain ificant similarities to N.
It is inconsequential that the prior incidents involved an actual rape, whereas Benally's purported assault on N.Grandwoman sex White Mesa United States
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