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State v. Watkins

State v. Watkins

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A May 2013 Utah Supreme Court decision vacating Anthony Watkins' conviction of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
A May 2013 Utah Supreme Court decision vacating Anthony Watkins' conviction of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: The Salt Lake Tribune on May 11, 2013
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05/11/2013

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This opinion is subject to revision before final publication in the Pacific Reporter 
2013 UT 28
IN THE
S
UPREME
C
OURT OF THE
S
TATE OF
U
TAH
S
TATE OF
U
TAH
,
Plaintiff and Respondent,v.
A
NTHONY
W
ATKINS
,
Defendant and Petitioner.
No. 20110458Filed May 10, 2013On Certiorari to the Utah Court of AppealsEighth District, Vernal DeptThe Honorable John R. AndersonNo. 081800579Attorneys: John Swallow, Atty Gen., Jeanne B. Inouye, Asst. Atty Gen.,Salt Lake City, for respondentMichael K. Mohrman, Mitchell S. Maio, Jamie G. Pleune,Salt Lake City, for petitioner J
USTICE
P
ARRISH
authored the opinion of the Court, in whichC
HIEF
 J
USTICE
D
URRANT
,
 
A
SSOCIATE
C
HIEF
 J
USTICE
N
EHRING
, J
USTICE
D
URHAM
, and J
USTICE
L
EE
joined. J
USTICE
P
ARRISH
, opinion of the Court:
INTRODUCTION
¶1Anthony Watkins was convicted of aggravated sexualabuse of a child, H.C. His conviction was based on the holding thathe occupied a position of special trust in relation to the victimunder Utah Code section 76-5-404.1(4)(h). Because Mr. Watkins wastemporarily staying in the spare bedroom of H.C.s fathers house,the district court and the court of appeals both held that he was anadult cohabitant of a parent [of the victim].
Id.
;
State v. Watkins
,2011 UT App 96, ¶ 16, 250 P.3d 1019. The position of adultcohabitant of a parent is one of several positions specificallyreferenced in section 76-5-404.1(4)(h). The question before us iswhether Mr. Watkinss status as an adult cohabitant of H.C.s
 
S
TATE
 
v.
W
ATKINS
Opinion of the Court2father was sufficient, as a matter of law, to support the conclusionthat he occupied a position of special trust in relation to [H.C.].¶2We vacate Mr. Watkinss conviction and remand the casefor further proceedings. The fact that a defendant occupies one ofthe positions listed in section 76-5-404.1(4)(h), such as adultcohabitant of a parent, is insufficient, standing alone, to aggravatethe crime of sexual abuse of a child. Rather, to establish that adefendant occupies a position of special trust in relation to thevictim, the State must establish that the defendant occupies aposition of authority in relation to the victim and must furtherestablish that by reason of that position [the defendant] is able toexercise undue influence over the victim.
Id.
§ 76-5-404.1(4)(h).
BACKGROUND
¶3In September of 2008, Mr. Watkins temporarily moved inwith his niece, Tristan Schoenberger; her husband, Joe Schoenberger;and their family. The Schoenbergers had three children of their ownliving in the home. In addition, Mr. Shoenbergers daughter from aprior relationship, H.C., regularly visited and stayed overnight on atleast two occasions while Mr. Watkins was present.¶4During Mr. Watkinss stay, the Schoenbergers told theirchildren to call Mr. Watkins Uncle Tony. But H.C. testified thatshe simply called him Tony, not understanding how he fit into thefamily. Though Mr. Watkins watched the children on at least oneoccasion and would speak up if he saw the children doing some-thing inappropriate, Mrs. Shoenberger testified that Mr. Watkins didnot have a formal role in the daily operations of the family.¶5On approximately October 15, 2008, H.C. stayed over at theSchoenbergers. After H.C. and her brothers had gone to bed inH.C.s room, Mr. Watkins came into the room and lay down next toH.C. Mr. Watkins then started kissing [H.C.s] head and kind ofpinching [her] butt. H.C. told him to leave and when he did not,[she] got mad and told him to leave again, at which point Mr.Watkins left the room.¶6Later, [Mr. Watkins] came back in and gave [H.C. a] $100bill and told [her] not to tell anybody. While H.C. told her fatherabout the one hundred dollar bill the next morning, she did not tellhim about the rest of the incident until a few weeks later.¶7The State charged Mr. Watkins with aggravated sexualassault of a child under Utah Code section 76-5-404.1(4)(h).
State v.Watkins
, 2011 UT App 96, ¶ 5, 250 P.3d 1019. The State asserted that
 
Cite as: 2013 UT 28Opinion of the Court3Mr. Watkinss status as an adult cohabitant of a parent constitutedan aggravating factor because he occupied a position of specialtrust under section 76-5-404.1(4)(h).
Id.
 ¶8The case was tried to a jury. At the close of the States case,Mr. Watkins moved for dismissal, arguing that the State had failedto satisfy the statutory elements of aggravated sexual abuse of achild under Utah Code section 76-5-404.1(4)(h) because it had failedto demonstrate that Mr. Watkins occupied a position of specialtrust in relation to H.C. and that under Utah Code section 76-5-401.1(2), he had not acted with the intent to arouse or gratify thesexual desire of any person.
Id.
¶9The district court denied Mr. Watkinss motion to dismissand concluded that the position of trust was simply indicated by amature adult and a 10-year-old child who had lived in the samehome and that the jury should decide the issue of intent.
Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted).
 
The jury convicted Mr. Watkinsas charged.
Id.
¶10Prior to sentencing, Mr. Watkins filed a motion for a newtrial, asserting in part the same theories he had raised in his motionto dismiss. The district court denied the motion and sentencedMr. Watkins to a prison term of ten years to life.¶11Mr. Watkins appealed the denial of his motions to dismissand for a new trial to the court of appeals.
Id.
¶¶ 78. Mr. Watkinsargued, among other things, that he was not in a position of specialtrust in relation to H.C. and could not therefore have used such aposition to exert undue influence over her.
Id.
¶¶ 9, 11 n.5.¶12The court of appeals rejected Mr. Watkinss argument,holding that Mr. Watkins held a position of special trust under itsinterpretation of section 76-5-404.1(4)(h).
Id.
9. It ruled:[A] position of special trust may be established in twoways:either by occupying a position specifically listedby statute or by fitting the definition of a positionof special trust, which the statute clearly definesas a position occupied by a person in a position ofauthority, who, by reason of that position is ableto exercise undue influence over the victim.
Id.
¶ 11 (footnote omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).Because Mr. Watkins was a cohabitant of H.C.s father, a positionspecifically listed in the statute, the court of appeals concluded that

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