Priddy v. State, A21A1308

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtPhipps, Senior Appellate Judge.
Citation868 S.E.2d 831,362 Ga.App. 434
Parties PRIDDY v. The STATE.
Docket NumberA21A1308
Decision Date01 February 2022

362 Ga.App. 434
868 S.E.2d 831

PRIDDY
v.
The STATE.

A21A1308

Court of Appeals of Georgia.

February 1, 2022


868 S.E.2d 833

Leslie Spornberger Jones, for Appellant.

Fani T. Willis, Kevin Christopher Armstrong, Atlanta, Appellee.

Phipps, Senior Appellate Judge.

362 Ga.App. 434

A jury found Reginald Priddy guilty of rape, incest, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, three counts of child molestation, three counts of sexual battery, and cruelty to children in the first degree, and the trial court sentenced him on the convictions. Priddy filed a motion for a new trial, which he amended several times. The trial court denied Priddy's motion, and Priddy appeals this ruling. He asserts that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion in limine regarding the Rape Shield Statute, (3) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, (4) the trial court erred in failing to sequester jurors for individual voir dire, and (5) the trial court improperly sentenced him on his aggravated sodomy conviction. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Priddy's convictions and sentences.

868 S.E.2d 834

1. Priddy first asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. We disagree.

When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his criminal convictions, we ask only
362 Ga.App. 435
whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. So long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each element of the State's case, the jury's verdict will be upheld.

Torres v. State , 353 Ga. App. 470, 476 (1), 838 S.E.2d 137 (2020) (citation and punctuation omitted).

So viewed, the evidence shows that Priddy is the victim's father, but he had no contact with her until she was 11 years old. At that point, the victim left her mother in Florida and went to live with Priddy and his family, and they moved to Atlanta when she was in the sixth or seventh grade. According to the victim, after the move to Atlanta, Priddy punched her and knocked her to the ground for not having good grades. Around that same time, Priddy also began sexually abusing the victim; Priddy would crawl into bed with her, telling her that he wanted her to warm him up, and then ask her to rock back and forth when she was on top of him. He also touched her buttocks, rubbed her breast and vaginal area, and rubbed his erect penis on her. This happened once or twice a week for quite a while. Eventually Priddy demanded penetration, despite the victim's resistance. The first time Priddy penetrated the victim, she began bleeding, and he stopped. According to the victim, on one particular day Priddy abused her "all day." First he made the victim put his penis in her mouth, and then he put his penis in her vagina despite her protestations. Priddy put his penis in her vagina two other times that day. A week later, Priddy penetrated her again, then ejaculated in her mouth and made her swallow his semen. All of these acts occurred prior to the victim's thirteenth birthday.

At some point, the victim began cutting her wrists and called her mother, who picked up the victim and took her home to Jacksonville, Florida. Eventually, the victim told her mother about Priddy's actions. The victim's mother took her to a forensic interviewer, and the State introduced an audiovisual recording of the interview into evidence.

The victim's mother also contacted Priddy. She testified that Priddy told her in a telephone call that he had been on drugs when the incidents occurred. The State introduced screen shots of text messages between the victim's mother and Priddy in which Priddy stated that he had a problem, but had turned his life around, did not want to go to jail, and would "be making amends." The victim's grandmother also testified at trial that Priddy admitted to her during a telephone conversation that he had sex with the victim and blamed his actions on drug use.

362 Ga.App. 436

Priddy testified at trial, denying the allegations against him. The jury, however, found him guilty of rape, incest, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, three counts of child molestation, three counts of sexual battery, and cruelty to children in the first degree.

On appeal, Priddy asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because "[a] conviction based on the uncorroborated testimony of [the victim] is just as shaky as one based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice."1 However, it is well settled that the testimony of a victim does not need corroboration and is sufficient, standing alone, to support a conviction. See Jackson v. State , 334 Ga. App. 469, 473 (2), 779 S.E.2d 700 (2015) (victim's testimony alone was sufficient to sustain a conviction for forcible rape); Davenport v. State , 316 Ga. App. 234, 236 (1) (a), 729 S.E.2d 442 (2012) (victim's uncorroborated testimony was sufficient to sustain a conviction for incest); McGhee v. State , 263 Ga. App. 762, 763 (1), 589 S.E.2d 333 (2003)

868 S.E.2d 835

(victim's testimony, standing alone, was sufficient to sustain convictions for child molestation, sexual battery, and other crimes). In fact, this Court has concluded that "[t]he testimony of a victim of child molestation or aggravated child molestation need not be corroborated. The testimony of one witness is generally sufficient to establish a fact." Smith v. State , 320 Ga. App. 408, 410 (1) (a), 740 S.E.2d 174 (2013) (citations and punctuation omitted).

The record in this case contains direct evidence – in the form of the victim's testimony – supporting the jury's verdict. "Physical evidence of the sexual abuse was not required." Torres , 353 Ga. App. at 476-477 (1), 838 S.E.2d 137. Moreover, the State introduced additional evidence of Priddy's guilt at trial. For example, the victim's mother and grandmother both testified concerning admissions and incriminating statements Priddy made to them, and text messages between the victim's mother and Priddy – in which Priddy acknowledged that he had a problem and needed counseling, stated he did not want to go to jail, and promised to make amends and be there when the victim was ready to talk to him – were admitted into evidence.

Although Priddy argues that many of the facts to which the victim testified at trial were inconsistent with her forensic interview and testimony from other family members, "it is the function of the jury, rather than this Court, to weigh the evidence, resolve conflicts

362 Ga.App. 437

in the lay and expert testimony, and draw reasonable inferences from the evidence." Torres , 353 Ga. App. at 477 (1), 838 S.E.2d 137 (citation and punctuation omitted). In this case, the evidence was sufficient to sustain Priddy's convictions on all counts, and the trial court did not err in denying his motion for a new trial on this ground. See OCGA §§ 16-6-1 (defining rape); 16-6-22 (defining incest); 16-6-4 (defining both child molestation and aggravated child molestation); 16-6-2 (defining aggravated sodomy); 16-6-22.1 (defining sexual battery); 16-5-70 (defining cruelty to children in the first degree).

2. Priddy asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion in limine to pierce the Rape Shield Statute, OCGA § 24-4-412. According to Priddy, he should have been allowed to (a) question the victim about an allegation of sexual abuse she made against another man when she was seven years old and (b) cross-examine the victim and present evidence of an incident where she was disciplined by Priddy when he allegedly discovered she had sex with a boy at Priddy's house. Priddy argues that this evidence supported his defense that the victim either subconsciously conflated the prior abuse or fabricated her allegations against Priddy because she was angry at him for disciplining her. We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence sought to be introduced by Priddy.

The State moved in limine to prohibit Priddy from introducing evidence precluded by the Rape Shield Statute, and Priddy moved in limine to pierce the Rape Shield Statute and introduce the evidence discussed above. During the hearing on the motions, Priddy's trial counsel stated that, with respect to the second issue, they sought to introduce evidence only that Priddy disciplined the victim because he found her in a room with a boy, without detailing any alleged sexual conduct. The State argued that testimony about a boy being in the victim's room would insinuate that she was having sex. The trial court initially reserved ruling on the motions. Thereafter, the court heard argument regarding the admission of the evidence on two later occasions prior to opening statements, and ultimately the court granted the State's motion and denied Priddy's motion. Priddy renewed his motion to pierce the Rape Shield Statute...

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1 practice notes
  • Henry v. Griffin Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, A21A1775
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 1, 2022
    ...him if he has accepted it:(a) On the reasonable assumption that its nonconformity would be cured and it has not been seasonably cured; or868 S.E.2d 831 (b) Without discovery of such nonconformity if his acceptance was reasonably induced either by the difficulty of discovery before acceptanc......
1 cases
  • Henry v. Griffin Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, A21A1775
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 1, 2022
    ...him if he has accepted it:(a) On the reasonable assumption that its nonconformity would be cured and it has not been seasonably cured; or868 S.E.2d 831 (b) Without discovery of such nonconformity if his acceptance was reasonably induced either by the difficulty of discovery before acceptanc......

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