State v. Richardson

Decision Date05 April 2004
Docket NumberNo. 3773.,3773.
Citation358 S.C. 586,595 S.E.2d 858
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Thomas Wayne RICHARDSON, Appellant.

Richard Harold Warder, of Greenville, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Charles H. Richardson, Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, of Columbia; and Solicitor Robert M. Ariail, of Greenville, for Respondent.

CURETON, A.J.:

Thomas Wayne Richardson appeals his convictions for criminal sexual conduct, third degree and criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second degree. We affirm.

FACTS

In June 1999, Richardson met SS1, pastor of a Greenville church, during revival services at another local church. Richardson befriended SS by informing him that he represented the Richardson Family Foundation (the "Foundation"), an organization that helped churches and individuals obtain federally funded grants. Richardson participated in several services at SS's church.

KS, SS's sixteen-year-old daughter, met Richardson through her parents. Prior to this meeting, KS had heard Richardson speak at her father's church several times. During these speaking engagements, Richardson informed the congregation that he helped churches and intended to help rebuild the church and its related facilities.

On August 20, 1999, KS's parents asked her to provide administrative help to Richardson. On that day, Richardson was working in his hotel room. KS testified Richardson made sexual advances when the two were alone. Immediately after she refused his requests, KS's parents returned to the hotel room. She did not tell her parents about what had happened because she was afraid and in shock.

The next day, SS invited Richardson to stay at his home. KS, her parents, and her seven brothers and sisters also lived in the home, including TS, KS's fourteen-year-old sister. KS testified she helped Richardson with some of his paperwork while he was a guest. During one of these sessions, Richardson demanded that she go into the closet in her room and pull her pants down. When she questioned him, he responded that he would not help her church or anybody in the ministry if she told anyone. Richardson then had sexual intercourse with her. KS testified Richardson asked her to perform oral sex on another occasion. She further stated that Richardson came to her room several times and had sexual intercourse with her. When KS asked Richardson if what he was doing was wrong, Richardson claimed it was not wrong and justified his response with scriptures. During this time, Richardson told her the people in the ministry would not get anything if she did not comply or if she told anyone.

KS claimed the encounters with Richardson affected her performance in school and caused her to have headaches and stomach aches. On October 28, 1999, KS broke down and told her school principal that Richardson raped her at the family home. TS also admitted to being sexually assaulted by Richardson.

TS revealed similar behavior by Richardson. She testified that one evening Richardson entered her room and made sexual advances. TS refused his requests. Later in the evening, Richardson came to her room while she was asleep. He then got into her bed and began touching her. While he was doing this, he told TS that if she told anyone he would not help her church or her family. According to TS, Richardson removed her clothing and began to have sexual intercourse with her. When she asked Richardson to stop, he reiterated that he would not do anything for the church or her family if she did not comply. TS testified Richardson came to her room at night on several other occasions. She did not tell her parents about the incidents because she was embarrassed and afraid to say anything.

Following the discussions with the girls and their school principal, SS and his wife immediately informed the Greenville County Sheriff's Department about what had happened to their daughters. An investigation was conducted which included both KS and TS undergoing a sexual assault examination. After the investigation was completed, a Greenville County grand jury indicted Richardson for one count of criminal sexual conduct, third degree as to KS and one count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second degree as to TS. Richardson testified in his own defense. He denied raping or molesting either KS or TS, but admitted to having an affair with their mother.

The jury convicted Richardson of criminal sexual conduct, third-degree and criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second-degree. The judge sentenced Richardson to five years imprisonment for criminal sexual conduct, third degree and ten years imprisonment for criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second-degree. The sentences were to be served concurrently. Richardson appeals.

DISCUSSION

I.

Richardson argues the trial court erred by denying his motions for a directed verdict concerning the charge of criminal sexual conduct, third degree. He contends the evidence failed to establish that he used force or coercion to accomplish a sexual battery on KS.

At the conclusion of the State's case, Richardson moved for a directed verdict as to the charge of criminal sexual conduct, third degree. He asserted there was no evidence of force or coercion. Specifically, he contended the element of coercion required "threats of violence." He also argued that even if the evidence could be construed that Richardson persuaded KS to engage in sexual intercourse, persuasion alone was not sufficient to constitute coercion. At the conclusion of the case, Richardson renewed his motion. The trial judge denied both motions.

When reviewing a denial of a directed verdict, this Court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Burdette, 335 S.C. 34, 46, 515 S.E.2d 525, 531 (1999); State v. Morgan, 352 S.C. 359, 364, 574 S.E.2d 203, 205 (Ct.App.2002). If there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, we must find the case was properly submitted to the jury. State v. Pinckney, 339 S.C. 346, 349, 529 S.E.2d 526, 527 (2000). A defendant is entitled to a directed verdict when the State fails to produce evidence of the offense charged. State v. McKnight, 352 S.C. 635, 642, 576 S.E.2d 168, 171 (2003), cert. denied, ___ U.S.___, 124 S.Ct. 101, 157 L.Ed.2d 36 (2003). Therefore, "where the facts of the case, even if proved, do not constitute the alleged criminal conduct, a directed verdict must be granted." State v. Jackson, 338 S.C. 565, 569, 527 S.E.2d 367, 369 (Ct.App.2000).

"A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if the actor engages in sexual battery with the victim and ... [t]he actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of aggravating circumstances." S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-654(1)(a) (2003); see State v. Ervin, 333 S.C. 351, 354, 510 S.E.2d 220, 222 (Ct.App.1998)

("Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree specifies the actor must use force or coercion without aggravating circumstances to accomplish the sexual battery.").

Our Supreme Court has found that "force" and "coercion" as used in section 16-3-654 have "basically the same meaning." State v. Hamilton, 276 S.C. 173, 178, 276 S.E.2d 784, 786 (1981). "They `mean to make a person ... follow a prescribed and dictated course; ... to inflict or impose: force one's will on someone.'" Id. (quoting American Heritage Dictionary 513). The State, in order to prove criminal sexual conduct in any degree, must prove "`that the sexual battery occurred under circumstances where the victim's consent was lacking.'" Id. (quoting State v. Cox, 274 S.C. 624, 628, 266 S.E.2d 784, 786 (1980)).

Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence was sufficient to submit to the jury the charge of criminal sexual conduct, third degree. Richardson presented himself as someone who could provide significant financial assistance to KS's family and her church. By inviting Richardson into his home, SS conveyed to his family that he was interested in what Richardson could offer. KS testified, and her parents corroborated, that she had been raised in the church and taught to respect her elders and people in positions of authority. Based on these values, she was afraid that she would be punished if she did not do what Richardson asked her to do. Furthermore, KS testified that Richardson had sexual intercourse with her despite her refusals and her questioning whether he was wrong in what he was doing. According to KS, Richardson supported his actions by quoting scriptures. KS testified she was also concerned that her family and church would be deprived of Richardson's assistance if she failed to comply with his requests. Additionally, she denied she was a willing participant.

Based on this evidence, a jury could reasonably infer that Richardson used coercion to accomplish the sexual battery on KS. KS viewed Richardson as an authority figure who relied on religion to support his actions. This authority coupled with Richardson's repeated threat to withhold his assistance could have intimidated KS to the point of overcoming her will. See State v. Hardy, 104 N.C.App. 226, 409 S.E.2d 96, 98 (1991)

("[A]uthority itself intimidates; the implicit threat to exercise it coerces. Coercion ... is a form of constructive force." (quoting State v. Etheridge, 319 N.C. 34, 352 S.E.2d 673, 681-82 (1987))). Although Richardson contends KS consented and never complained, this alone does not entitle him to a directed verdict. Instead, it creates a question of fact in terms of credibility. See State v. Burroughs, 328 S.C. 489, 495, 492 S.E.2d 408, 411 (Ct.App.1997) (finding trial court did not err in denying defendant's motion for a directed...

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