State v. Gates, 112118 WVSC, 17-0905

Docket Nº:17-0905
Party Name:State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent v. Matthew Gates, Defendant Below, Petitioner
Judge Panel:CONCURRED IN BY: Chief Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Elizabeth D. Walker Justice Tim Armstead Justice Evan H. Jenkins Justice Paul T. Farrell sitting by temporary assignment.
Case Date:November 21, 2018
Court:Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
 
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State of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent

v.

Matthew Gates, Defendant Below, Petitioner

No. 17-0905

Supreme Court of West Virginia

November 21, 2018

Ohio County 16-F-49

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Matthew Gates, by counsel Brent A. Clyburn, appeals the Circuit Court of Ohio County's September 18, 2017, order sentencing him following his conviction of seven counts of sexual abuse by a custodian. Respondent State of West Virginia, by counsel Shannon Frederick Kiser, filed a response. On appeal, petitioner asserts that impermissible "other acts" evidence was admitted at trial and that insufficient evidence was adduced to establish that he was the victim's "custodian."

This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

In October of 2015, law enforcement officers began an investigation following D.S.'s disclosure of sexual abuse by petitioner.1 During its investigation, evidence of certain of petitioner's sexual proclivities came to light. Namely, petitioner was accused of inserting bottles, cans, and other objects into D.S., a minor, in a fetishistic practice known as "stretching." The victim's mother, who previously had been in a consensual relationship with petitioner, reported that petitioner practiced this act on her as well. On May 9, 2016, petitioner was indicted on seven counts of sexual abuse by a custodian arising from his abuse of D.S.

Prior to trial, pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence, the State filed a notice of its intent to introduce evidence from the victim's mother of petitioner's insertion of various objects into her orifices for his sexual gratification.[2] The State argued that the "fetish or type of sexual preferences enjoyed by the [petitioner] is extremely relevant evidence in light of the allegations made by D.S. in that the types of sex acts at issue are very unusual." Following a McGinnis hearing on December 1, 2016, the circuit court deemed the 404(b) evidence admissible for the limited purpose of establishing petitioner's identity as the perpetrator of certain acts described in the indictment.3

Subsequent to the court's determination that the Rule 404(b) evidence was admissible, petitioner proposed stipulating that he had sexual contact with the victim. Petitioner argued that such a stipulation would render the evidence concerning the nature of the sexual encounters irrelevant. The State indicated it would not enter into such a stipulation, and, on July 5, 2017, the court found that it could not force the State to do so.

Petitioner's trial began on July 10, 2017, and lasted four days. Although no stipulation was entered into by the parties, petitioner nonetheless admitted to the sexual conduct charged in the indictment and focused his defense on arguing that he was not D.S.'s custodian. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found petitioner guilty of all seven counts of...

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