State v. Singh, CA2021-12-158

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtHENDRICKSON, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 3385
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Appellee, v. TARANPREET SINGH, Appellant.
Docket NumberCA2021-12-158
Decision Date26 September 2022

2022-Ohio-3385

STATE OF OHIO, Appellee,
v.

TARANPREET SINGH, Appellant.

No. CA2021-12-158

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

September 26, 2022


CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CR2021-02-0242

Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael Greer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Michael K. Allen & Associates, and Michael K. Allen and Bryan R. Perkins, for appellant.

OPINION

HENDRICKSON, J.

{¶1} Appellant, Taranpreet Singh, appeals from his conviction and sentence in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas for rape, kidnapping, and assault. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm appellant's conviction and sentence.

I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

{¶2} On March 26, 2021, a superseding indictment was filed charging appellant

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with eleven criminal offenses involving four different victims.[1] Counts one through four of the indictment charged appellant with rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2), kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01 (A)(3), kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01 (A)(4), all felonies of the first degree, and assault in violation of R.C. 2903.13(A), a misdemeanor of the first degree, as it related to events that occurred on September 4, 2019, through September 5, 2019, involving "Jane."[2] Counts five and six charged appellant with rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2) and kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01 (A)(4), felonies of the first degree, as it related to events that occurred on April 2, 2020, involving "Daisy." Counts seven through ten charged appellant with rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2), kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(3), kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4), and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in violation of R.C. 2911.01 (A)(1), all felonies of the first degree, as it related to events that occurred on August 23, 2020, involving "Marie." Counts seven through ten were all accompanied by a firearm specification under R.C. 2941.145. Finally, count eleven charged appellant with rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2), a felony of the first degree, as it related to an event that occurred between September 1, 2019, and September 30, 2019, involving "Amy."

{¶3} Appellant pled not guilty to the charges. On September 27, 2021, the day before a four-day jury trial commenced, the state dismissed count eleven. Regarding the remaining charges, the state presented testimony from Jane, Jane's mother, Daisy, Marie, the sexual assault nurse examiners ("SANE nurses") who administered rape kits for the three alleged victims, detectives and officers from the city of Hamilton and city of Middletown police departments who investigated the charged offenses, and a Bureau of Criminal

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Investigation (BCI) forensic scientist who tested and analyzed DNA evidence obtained from the administration of the rape kits. Through his defense counsel's cross-examination of the state's witnesses, appellant sought to present a defense demonstrating that the alleged victims were prostitutes who had lied about the nature of their sexual encounters with him and had conspired to falsely accuse him of the crimes in hopes of later bringing a civil lawsuit against him. Appellant also presented testimony and character evidence from three witnesses: his wife, a former coworker, and a friend. The testimony and evidence presented at trial established the following facts.

A. Incident with Jane

{¶4} In the evening hours of September 4, 2019, Jane was walking from her home in Hamilton, Ohio to a friend's home. A man, later identified as appellant, driving a black vehicle approached her and offered to give her a ride. Appellant picked up Jane near a Circle K convenience store that was located on Pleasant Avenue in the Lindenwald neighborhood of Hamilton. Appellant then drove into the Circle K parking lot and ran inside the store to purchase condoms while Jane waited inside the vehicle.

{¶5} Upon returning to the vehicle, appellant drove Jane to a different neighborhood in Hamilton, one located on the east side of the railroad tracks. Appellant stopped in front of an abandoned building located at 906 East Avenue. Appellant claimed he had lost his wallet and needed to look for it. He got out of the car and asked to search Jane's side of the vehicle. However, once Jane got out of the vehicle, appellant grabbed her by her hair and dragged her into the abandoned building.

{¶6} Appellant pulled Jane into one of the building's back rooms. As he was doing so, appellant struck Jane in the head and beat her "in the front" and "in the back." Jane attempted to block her face from the blows by putting up her hands. While she was being struck by appellant, Jane urinated on herself. Appellant told Jane to stop screaming or he

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would continue to beat her. He also told Jane to take off her clothes and kiss him. Jane took of her clothing and tried to kiss appellant, but she was too upset. Appellant then raped Jane by inserting his penis into her vagina. Appellant did not wear a condom and ejaculated inside her.

{¶7} Once the sexual act was complete, appellant left the building. Jane got dressed and started walking towards her home, calling her mother as she exited the abandoned building. Jane did not ask anyone walking or driving by for help and did not call the police at that time as she was "in shock of everything" and just wanted her mother.

{¶8} Jane's mother met up with Jane. She described the physical state she found Jane in, stating that Jane "had blood and - well, she was crying, and [had] dirt running down her face. The side of her head was swollen. Her hair was all messed up. * * * [S]he had urinated on herself and had dirt all over. She looked pretty bad." Jane's mother walked Jane home, where Jane immediately tried to clean herself. Jane explained she used a douche to try to expel appellant's sperm.

{¶9} The next day, approximately eight hours after the incident, Jane called the police to report the rape. Jane was also examined by SANE nurse Meredith Gregory at the Bethesda Butler Hospital on this date. Gregory noted that Jane appeared anxious and sad. Gregory observed an abrasion to Jane's left nostril and left upper lip and noted that there were "multiple contusions, abrasions, erythema, which is redness, to [Jane's] back" near her shoulders. Gregory did not, however, see any bruising or visible injuries to the top of Jane's head, to her face or forehead, or to her thighs, buttocks, or genitalia. Gregory also did not find any shards of glass or debris in or on Jane's person during the examination, despite broken glass having been scattered throughout the abandoned building.

{¶10} For the rape kit, Gregory collected a DNA standard from Jane using an oral swab. Jane's perianal area, her labia minora, her labia majora, and vagina were swabbed

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for evidence. The underwear and shirt Jane had worn on the night of the incident were collected as evidence. The underwear had blood spots on it. Photographs of Jane's injuries and the clothing she had worn the evening of September 4, 2019 were admitted into evidence at trial.

{¶11} After her initial report of the sexual assault and her examination by the SANE nurse, Jane became uncooperative with the city of Hamilton detective investigating her claims. Jane failed to appear for two scheduled interviews. It was not until May 27, 2020, more than eight months after initially reporting the rape, that Jane met with Detective Frank Botts. At this time, Jane told Detective Botts that she had seen the man who had assaulted her driving in the area where she lived. Jane had not called law enforcement when this occurred, but rather had run back inside her home.

{¶12} A six-man photo lineup was administered to Jane on May 27, 2020. Jane identified another man, "S.S," as the perpetrator of the sexual assault, stating "that kinda looks like him, but has a long hair [sic] and beard." Appellant's picture was not included in the lineup presented to Jane.

{¶13} A DNA sample was obtained from S.S. A DNA sample was also obtained from appellant, who was developed as a suspect following an investigation into sexual assaults reported by other victims. Timothy Augsback, a BCI forensic scientist, tested the swabs and underwear collected as part of Jane's rape kit against the DNA samples obtained from S.S. and appellant. Augsback testified that S.S. was not a contributor to any of the DNA mixtures found in the samples from Jane's rape kit. However, the perianal swab from the rape kit had a mixture of appellant's and Jane's DNA, with appellant being the major contributor. Augsback explained how rare the match would be in the general population of unrelated individuals, stating that appellant's "DNA profile in the sperm fraction was one in 50 million unrelated individuals." The swab collected from Jane's labia minora was also

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tested and found to contain a mixture of appellant's and Jane's DNA. Augsback testified that the estimated frequency of the occurrence of appellant's DNA profile was rarer than one in one trillion unrelated individuals. Finally, Augsback tested the underwear worn by Jane on the night of the sexual assault, which was found to contain a mixture of appellant's and Jane's DNA. According to Augsback, the estimated frequency of the occurrence of appellant's DNA profile was rarer than one in one trillion unrelated individuals.

{¶14} At trial, defense counsel questioned Jane about her use of drugs and possible prostitution on the streets of Hamilton. Jane admitted she had a 2017 conviction for possession of heroin but denied she had used drugs on the date she was assaulted by appellant. Jane also denied that she had ever prostituted herself. She stated that when appellant offered her a ride on September 4, 2019, they "never discussed anything about money or any sexual acts at all." She also...

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