8 N.E.3d 668 (Ind. 2014), 18S02-1304-CR-297, Smith v. State

Docket Nº:18S02-1304-CR-297
Citation:8 N.E.3d 668
Opinion Judge:David, Justice.
Party Name:CHRISTOPHER SMITH, Appellant (Defendant below), v. STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)
Attorney:ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Scott E. Shockley, James R. Williams, Muncie, Indiana. ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Ian A.T. McLean, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Judge Panel:David, Justice. Massa and Rush, JJ., concur. Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, C.J., concurs. Massa and Rush, JJ., concur. Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, C.J., concurs. Rucker, J., dissenting. Dickson, C.J., concurs.
Case Date:March 27, 2014
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana

Page 668

8 N.E.3d 668 (Ind. 2014)

CHRISTOPHER SMITH, Appellant (Defendant below),


STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below)

No. 18S02-1304-CR-297

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 27, 2014

Page 669

Appeal from the Delaware Circuit Court, No. 18C05-1103-CM-01. The Honorable Thomas Cannon, Judge.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A02-1204-CR-331.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Scott E. Shockley, James R. Williams, Muncie, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Ian A.T. McLean, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

David, Justice. Massa and Rush, JJ., concur. Rucker, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, C.J., concurs.


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David, Justice.

The Indiana Code requires certain school officials to immediately report instances of suspected child abuse occurring within their institutions to the Department of Child Services or law enforcement. Here, a high school principal was convicted for failing to comply with this requirement after a student at his school told him she had been raped by a fellow student, and he did not notify the police or the Department of Child Services for four hours. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

G.G. was a sixteen-year-old student at Muncie Central High School. G.G. had previously been found to be a child in need of services and made a ward of the Madison County office of the Indiana Department of Child Services. She resided, by court order, at the Youth Opportunity Center in Muncie. The YOC served as G.G.'s custodial parent and provided care, room, and board to G.G. pursuant to a contract with DCS.

Between 12:20 and 12:25 p.m. on November 9, 2010, a fellow student brought G.G. to the office of Kathy McCord, the assistant principal at Muncie Central. G.G. told McCord that she had been raped (during lunch) by a fellow student, S.M., in a bathroom at the school. McCord immediately went to the office of Christopher Smith, then the principal at Muncie Central, and told him of the rape allegation.

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Smith and McCord returned to McCord's office, where G.G. repeated the allegation. Smith contacted Trudy Anderson, the school nurse, at approximately 12:40, and also Jackie Samuels, the associate principal, informing them of the allegation and asking them to come to McCord's office. Anderson went into McCord's office to sit with G.G., and Smith, Samuels, and McCord went to Smith's office. Smith directed McCord to review the school's security footage to identify the whereabouts of the two students--a process that took McCord about an hour. Anderson sat with G.G. until McCord returned, and at some point during that time G.G. was directed to provide a handwritten statement of her allegation, which she did.

At the time, there were between three and five commissioned and sworn police officers on school grounds, serving as security officers. Samuels asked Smith if she should contact one of those officers, call the YOC, or find S.M. Smith directed her to call the YOC. Samuels spoke on the phone with Crystal Dunigan, a staff member at the YOC responsible for G.G.'s cottage, and informed her of the alleged rape. Dunigan asked Samuels to call back, because Dunigan needed to talk to other individuals at the YOC.

Sometime between 12:45 and 1:00, Smith called the administration for the Muncie Community School District and spoke to the director of secondary education, Joann McCowan. Smith was trying to reach Tim Heller, the assistant superintendent. Smith relayed G.G.'s allegation to McCowan, and said his question for Heller was whether a security officer should be present if S.M. was questioned. McCowan reached the district's director of human resources, Lon Sloan, who told her that Smith should have another administrator present, but did not need a security officer as they were not sure if it was a criminal matter or not. Both McCowan and Sloan were headed to Muncie Central later that afternoon for job interviews.

Samuels called Dunigan a second time, shortly before 1:00. Dunigan explained that the YOC would send a driver to take G.G. to the emergency room. The two also discussed G.G.'s credibility, including an incident earlier that year in which Anderson believed G.G. had faked a seizure, and an attendance issue in which G.G. lied about where she had been. After the conversation concluded, Samuels told Smith that the YOC was coming to take G.G. to the emergency room.1

Smith then directed Samuels, at about 1:25, to go get S.M.--who had spent the intervening time finishing lunch and then attending a science class--and bring him to Smith's office. Smith asked the Muncie Central athletic director, Thomas Jarvis, to be a witness while he questioned S.M. Jarvis asked Smith if this should be a police matter instead, but Smith said that it was still a school matter.

Smith questioned S.M. about the allegation, but S.M. denied raping G.G. He was not asked to provide a written statement. The questioning last between fifteen and twenty minutes, and S.M. was then allowed to return to his class and--at the end of the school day--eventually went home.

After S.M. left, Smith asked Jarvis to search S.M.'s and G.G.'s lockers. S.M. indicated during the questioning that he

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and G.G. had exchanged several notes, but that he had thrown them away; but Jarvis and Smith believed the letters would still be in the students' lockers. Jarvis contacted one of the school's security officers, Officer Mike Edwards of the Muncie Police, and asked him for assistance in the search. Jarvis did not, however, tell Officer Edwards that there had actually been an allegation of a rape occurring on school grounds--nor did anyone else at the school.

After completing the search, Officer Edwards continued his normal duties until 3:30, when he left the school for the day. Later that afternoon, Officer Edwards's supervisor with the police department informed him of the rape, and that it had occurred at Muncie Central. Officer Edwards immediately went to Ball Memorial. He served as the lead investigator briefly, before another officer--Detective George Hopper--assumed that function two days later.

Meanwhile, back at Muncie Central, Samuels, Smith, Sloan, and McCowan proceeded to conduct interviews with candidates for an open administrator position. The interviews lasted until after 4:00.

At the conclusion of the second interview, Sloan realized that Heller and the superintendent for the district, Dr. Eric King, still had not yet been notified of the alleged rape. With Sloan and McCowan in the room, Smith then called Heller. Smith explained to Heller that G.G. had reported that she had been raped, and that she was then at the hospital. Heller told Smith to contact DCS.

A little after 4:30, Sloan placed a call to the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline, operated by DCS. Smith then explained the circumstances of G.G.'s allegations to the hotline operator, who indicated that because S.M. was also sixteen, " this would be something I believe that we would probably refer to law enforcement," and that " this looks like something we are going to screen out on our end," but she would forward the report to her supervisors. (Joint Ex. 3 at 1, 6, 8.) Smith told the operator that he would contact law enforcement.

Smith then tried several times to contact the YOC to check on G.G., before finally getting ahold of Ross at the hospital, sometime between 4:30 and 4:50. The rape kit had not yet been completed at that time, and Smith asked Ross if the YOC intended to report the allegation, or if Muncie Central should do it. Ross replied that she assumed Muncie Central should make the report, as the rape occurred at the school.

Sloan then called the district's chief of security and operations, Brian Lipscomb, and asked--hypothetically--what Lipscomb's response would be if a student were sexually assaulted at school. Lipscomb responded that he would call the police. Sloan then informed Lipscomb of G.G.'s allegations, and that she was now at Ball Memorial. Lipscomb immediately went to the hospital, where he met with Officer Edwards, and Smith arrived there at about 5:30. Smith remained until about 6:10 and then left for a school board meeting, because he was recognizing several coaches and the volleyball team at the meeting. Lipscomb remained for about another thirty minutes--until G.G. was taken back to the YOC. At no point did Smith, Muncie Central, or the district ever directly contact the Muncie Police Department to report the rape.

On November 11, Detective Hopper began his investigation into the alleged rape. Six days into the investigation, S.M. admitted to raping G.G., and he was arrested

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and later pleaded guilty.2 At a point, however, the investigation shifted focus to Smith; why he did not contact the police at all--or DCS sooner--after G.G. informed him of the rape, and why district officials were then claiming G.G. had recanted, been vague in her accusation, or somehow changed her story over the course of the day. Smith told police he assumed that notifying the YOC and getting G.G. to the hospital would take care of the police notification.

The State eventually charged Smith with failure report G.G.'s allegation to DCS or local law enforcement, a class B misdemeanor under Indiana's statutory scheme requiring school officials to report instances of child abuse.3 Ind. Code § 31-33-22-1(a) (2008). Smith filed a motion to dismiss the charges, claiming the State had inappropriately combined the reporting requirements of two statutes, and also arguing that the reporting statute was void for vagueness. The trial court denied Smith's motion and affirmed the...

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