Crabtree v. State

Decision Date02 September 2020
Docket NumberCourt of Appeals Case No. 19A-CR-2128
Citation152 N.E.3d 687
Parties Dustin B. CRABTREE, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Attorney for Appellant: Kevin J. Moser, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky

Attorneys for Appellee: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., Attorney General of Indiana, Samuel J. Dayton, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana

Tavitas, Judge.

Case Summary

[1] Dustin Crabtree appeals his conviction and sentence for child molesting, a Level 1 felony. We affirm.


[2] Crabtree presents two issues for our review, which we revise and restate as follows:

I. Whether the trial court erred by admitting Crabtree's statement to the officers.
II. Whether Crabtree's sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and Crabtree's character.

[3] In early 2019, Crabtree and his wife ("K.C.") lived with their three children: seven-year-old P.C.; four-year-old L.C.,1 and three-year-old R.C.2 In January 2019, K.C. became aware of allegations that Crabtree was engaging in sexual conduct with L.C. after L.C. disclosed the conduct to her cousin. K.C. contacted authorities.

[4] On January 28, 2019, Kelly Bridges, a forensic interviewer at the Children's Advocacy Center ("CAC"), interviewed L.C. L.C. disclosed to Bridges that: (1) Crabtree "trie[d] to do gross stuff to [L.C.'s] pee-pee," like "rub it"; (2) Crabtree "did it a lot of times"; (3) Crabtree used his finger to rub "[i]nside [L.C.'s] butt-crack"; (4) Crabtree "pull[ed] [L.C.'s] pants off" and "spread[ ] out [her] legs so he can do it even more"; (5) Crabtree had L.C. "rub [Crabtree's] pee-pee" and it felt like Crabtree was "peeing on [L.C.'s] hand"; (6) Crabtree "put[ ] his finger in [L.C.'s'] mouth... and [ ] put his pee-pee to go through in [L.C.'s] mouth"; (7) Crabtree showed L.C. "sort of a naked video" on Crabtree's phone; and (8) several of these events occurred in Crabtree's and K.C.'s bed as K.C. slept in it. Tr. Vol. II pp. 109-110, 118-19, 121-22.3

[5] Also, on January 28, 2019, Detective Brian Earls, with the Indiana State Police, approached Crabtree outside of the family's home. Detective Earls asked Crabtree about L.C.'s allegations, and Crabtree denied any wrongdoing. During the conversation, Crabtree volunteered to take a polygraph examination before Detective Earls could propose the same. Later that evening, Detective Earls and Crabtree scheduled Crabtree's polygraph examination.

[6] On February 1, 2019, Crabtree's mother drove Crabtree to the Indiana State Police Versailles Post. Before Crabtree took the polygraph, Sergeant Rick Roseberry, the polygraph examiner, advised Crabtree of his rights. Although Sergeant Roseberry did not use the term " Miranda rights," as Crabtree acknowledges on appeal, the advisements were substantially the same as Miranda rights. Sergeant Roseberry advised Crabtree that: (1) he was free to leave at any time; (2) the interview room door was unlocked; however, the Post door was locked for officer safety and Crabtree could simply ask officers to unlock the door to leave; (3) Crabtree had the right to remain silent; (4) anything Crabtree said could and would be used against him; (5) Crabtree had the right to speak with a lawyer and have a lawyer present for questioning; (6) if Crabtree was unable to afford a lawyer, one would be provided for him; (7) Crabtree could end the questioning at any point; and (8) Crabtree was voluntarily participating in questioning.

[7] Crabtree signed a waiver of rights prior to taking the polygraph examination. The waiver stated:

1. By signing your name, you acknowledge that you have been read and fully understand the following rights, that no promises have been made to you and that you have not been threatened in any manner.
a. You have the absolute right to remain silent.
b. If you give up this right, anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
c. You have a right to talk to a lawyer before and have a lawyer present during questioning.
d. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you, without charge, before any questioning, if you so desire.
e. If you decide to answer any questions, you may stop anytime that you wish.
2. You understand that since this examination is VOLUNTARY, you release and forever hold free from harm, liability, or damage to you as a result of the polygraph examination, the State of Indiana, any agency involved in this case, it's [sic] officers, and the polygraph examiner.

Ex. Vol. V p. 15.

[8] After the polygraph examination was complete, Sergeant Roseberry told Crabtree that he failed the questions regarding whether L.C.'s mouth touched Crabtree's penis. Sergeant Roseberry then questioned Crabtree. Crabtree told Sergeant Roseberry he would be willing to speak to Sergeant Roseberry further, but asked to do so on a later date. During the three-hour period in which Crabtree spoke with Sergeant Roseberry, the following occurred: Crabtree was given advisement of his rights, introductory information and explanation about the polygraph examination, and initial questions about the polygraph; Crabtree took a twenty-minute break; the polygraph examination was completed; Sergeant Roseberry ran the polygraph report; and then Sergeant Roseberry questioned Crabtree. See Misc. Motions Hearing Joint Exhibit A. When Crabtree asked to reschedule the interview, Sergeant Roseberry asked Crabtree if he would mind waiting while Sergeant Roseberry went to get the investigator, to which Crabtree agreed. The duration of Crabtree's entire interaction with Sergeant Roseberry was approximately three hours.

[9] Crabtree waited one minute, then Sergeant Thomas Baxter, an Investigative Squad Sergeant, came to speak with Crabtree. During the conversation with Sergeant Baxter, Crabtree stated that he had "a whole lot to think about" and asked if he could reschedule their conversation. Tr. Vol. II p. 210. Sergeant Baxter responded, "If you wanna talk later, what you need to do is probably talk to, to [Detective Earls] about that," and continued to speak to Crabtree. Id. After additional discussion, Crabtree inquired whether Crabtree could still go home if he told Sergeant Baxter "what [Crabtree was] about to tell [Sergeant Baxter]." Id. at 215. Sergeant Baxter responded, "I think we could do that." Id. Crabtree then admitted that, one night, he awoke with L.C. in his bed, and L.C. was "touching" Crabtree "[w]ith her hands and her mouth." Id. Afterwards, Crabtree told L.C. not to mention the events to anyone else. Crabtree stated that he advised K.C. that the children could no longer sleep in the couple's bed.

[10] After approximately twenty minutes of questioning, Sergeant Baxter thanked Crabtree. Sergeant Baxter then asked Crabtree: "There isn't anybody that knows better, the facts of what [L.C.] said, than Detective Earls. If he comes back in here, if I go get him and present him to you and he goes over what she said, will you help put this together?" Id. at 217. When Sergeant Baxter asked Crabtree if that was "cool," Crabtree responded affirmatively. Id. at 217-18. Sergeant Baxter sent a text message to Detective Earls, who appeared within moments. Crabtree again told Detective Earls that one night he awoke with L.C. in his bed touching Crabtree's penis, "and her head was down there." Tr. Vol. III p. 5. Detective Earls then questioned Crabtree for approximately forty minutes. Crabtree left the Post that night to return to his mother's home.

[11] On March 4, 2019, the State charged Crabtree with Count I, child molesting, a Level 1 felony; and Count II, child molesting, a Level 4 felony.4 Count I was based on Crabtree performing or submitting to sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with L.C., and Count II was based on Crabtree fondling or touching L.C. In late July 2019, the State moved to dismiss Count II, which the trial court granted.

[12] The State moved for closed circuit television testimony by L.C. in a protected persons hearing pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-37-4-6(e)(1)(B).5 The State moved for this hearing due to L.C.'s young age and the likely harm that L.C. would suffer if required to testify during Crabtree's jury trial. A protected persons hearing was held on July 23, 2019. During the hearing, L.C. hid in the witness box and did not reply to several questions the State asked about Crabtree. Dr. Jill Christopher, a clinical psychologist, testified on behalf of the State and stated that, based on her February 2019 evaluation of L.C., L.C. may be unable to "reasonably communicate" and may be unable to answer many questions if she was required to testify in the presence of Crabtree. Tr. Vol. II p. 110. Bridges also testified during the hearing regarding her January 2019 CAC interview of L.C. The trial court granted the State's request and concluded that, in lieu of L.C.'s testimony at trial, Bridges' CAC video interview of L.C. would be played for the jury.

[13] On July 16, 2019, Crabtree filed a motion to suppress statements made during questioning following the polygraph examination. In the motion, Crabtree argued that: (1) Crabtree was in custody following the voluntary polygraph; (2) Crabtree should have been re-read his Miranda rights after the polygraph; and (3) Crabtree's right to remain silent and right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution were violated.

[14] The trial court held a hearing on Crabtree's motion to suppress, and on July 25, 2019, the trial court entered a written order denying Crabtree's motion to suppress. The trial court found that Crabtree voluntarily participated in the polygraph and was not in custody during the polygraph examination or the subsequent questioning. The trial court concluded, therefore, that Crabtree could not succeed in challenging the admissibility of the voluntary statement and denied the motion to suppress. The trial court ordered, however, that discussion of the polygraph...

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