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State v. Arnold

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 7, 2015


September 9, 2014 Session

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2011-B-1778 Joseph P. Binkley, Jr., Judge

James O. Martin, III (on appeal) and Fannie J. Harris (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Edward Arnold, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Sharon Reddick, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, JR., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.



Defendant was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for three counts of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child for acts that took place while Defendant was a mentor for the victim, N.M., [1] as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program during the time period of August 1, 2007, to November 23, 2010. The victim was born in April of 1998.

Trial Testimony

At trial, the following testimony was presented to the jury. The victim, N.M., met Defendant through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at the Boys and Girls Club where he attended after school camp and summer camp.[2] The victim and Defendant eventually did things together outside of the Boys and Girls Club, like "go eat, and just like go to like football games, " "play laser tag, " and "have fun." The victim often went with Defendant to Defendant's home.

The victim alleged that the first abuse started a few months after Defendant and the victim started meeting off site. The next incident the victim remembered occurred in the "bonus room" of Defendant's home, next to the garage. At the time, the victim was in the fifth grade. The victim described the incident as follows:

[Defendant] used to get up and sit next to me on the couch next to the wall. And then eventually he told me to get up and then he started to rub my thigh and the inside.
And then he eventually moved my head over to his lap and I didn't know what to do. So then he did it to me and then he looked at me like it was my turn and I did it to him and I started to choke and gag. So he eventually raised my head up. And that was the first time on the oral part.

The victim explained that Defendant pulled down his pants and then "touched [his] private part with [Defendant's] mouth."[3] When the incident concluded, Defendant told the victim to go "fix" himself, so the victim went into the bathroom and pulled up his pants. When the victim left the bathroom, Defendant "pretended like nothing happened." Defendant later drove the victim home. During the ride, Defendant told the victim that if he told anyone about the incident, "no one" would believe him and that it was "our little secret."

The victim recalled another incident during which Defendant sat next to the victim on the couch and put his hand onto the victim's lap before Defendant started rubbing the inside of the victim's thigh. Defendant then "picked up his hand and moved [the victim's] hand over to his private part. And he started to rub it up and down while my hand was on it. And then - and then he took [the victim's] head while [Defendant] was rubbing it and [the victim] started to suck [Defendant's penis]."

The victim also described an incident occurring in the bonus room at Defendant's home during which the victim was on the couch when Defendant told him to get up. According to the victim, Defendant turned him around and Defendant "started to rub his [own] private part" before he pushed the victim down on the couch and started rubbing his "behind." The victim stated that "then [Defendant] started to like go in and out with his finger. And then he eventually stuck his private part in my behind. And then I began to cry. But it just seemed like he didn't care, because he kept on going." The victim described that he felt "some wet and sticky stuff or something like that" before Defendant "pushed [the victim] off of him." Defendant eventually took the victim home. During the car ride Defendant told the victim if he told anyone about what happened, people would think that he was "gay."

The victim described in detail at least one other incident of anal sex during which Defendant and the victim were sitting in the bonus room of the Defendant's house.[4]Defendant smiled at the victim and told him to "get up" before bending the victim over the arm of the couch. Defendant pulled the victim's pants down, rubbed the victim's behind with his hand, "put his finger in the hole, " and then inserted his penis into the victim's anus. The victim stated that he started to "cry again, because I didn't know why I was letting him do it."

The victim described at least one incident during which Defendant masturbated the victim to the point of ejaculation. The victim testified he felt "confused" because some of the things that Defendant did to him felt "good, " but he wondered why the two could not have a "normal mentor relationship."

The victim testified that, at some point during the abuse, Defendant and his wife were going through a divorce. He testified that things got "worse, " and the abuse occurred more frequently in the car than at Defendant's house during this time.

During the summer of 2010, Defendant asked to take a break from the mentor relationship. The victim was both "hurt and relieved." The break lasted for approximately a month before the relationship started back again. The first outing after the break was to a golf event. The victim stated that he notified his mom in "August, September" that he wanted to discontinue the mentor relationship because it "wasn't right."

The victim did not tell his mother, S.B., [5] about the abuse until several months later when they "got into an argument" about the victim's sexual communication with a boy over the internet. The victim's mother gave him a "whupping" and asked him several questions about whether anyone, including Defendant, had ever touched him inappropriately. The victim did not answer her directly but eventually nodded his head and started to cry when she asked if "William" touched him. In response, the victim's mother got out the Bible, asking the victim to place his hand on the Bible and swear that Defendant touched him. S.B. called the police.

The police came to the victim's residence and performed a brief interview. The victim was later given a forensic interview and a medical examination in late 2010. As part of the medical examination, the victim was questioned about his history. When asked if he had any sexual contact with peers, the victim replied that he had sexual contact only with "the person that touched me." According to Sue Ross, the nurse practitioner who completed the medical examination, the victim's exam was "totally normal" and there was "no sign of acute or chronic trauma to the anal/genital area." The victim had reported that the last sexual contact occurred "several months" prior to the examination. Ms. Ross opined that there was nothing "inconsistent" with the medical findings when compared to the victim's report of the last sexual contact. In other words, it would have been unlikely to find evidence of sexual contact during an examination several months after the sexual contact was alleged to have occurred.

At trial, the victim explained that in 2011, after the mentor relationship with Defendant ended, he met his mother's boyfriend's brother, W.C.L.[6] The two engaged in a sexual relationship that lasted several months. According to the victim, it "just felt right." Additionally, he wanted to "feel good with [W.C.L.] because of things [he] learned from [Defendant]."

During cross-examination of the victim, counsel for Defendant pointed out several inconsistencies in the victim's testimony with regard to the years during which certain events occurred. Counsel specifically noted that the victim stated in his forensic interview that he had anal sex with W.C.L., whereas at trial the victim stated that they did not engage in anal sex. The victim insisted that his relationship with W.C.L. started after his relationship with Defendant ended. Additionally, the victim insisted that he met Defendant when he was in fifth grade, in 2008-2009. The victim also acknowledged that his mother filed a civil suit naming both Defendant and the Boys and Girls Club as parties.

The victim's mother, S.B., was supportive of the victim's participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She had interaction with Defendant on a limited basis. S.B. noticed that shortly after the mentor relationship moved "off site, " the victim would say that he did not want to take part in mentoring.

In November of 2010, S.B. was looking at the victim's Facebook account when she noticed that there were several "chat boxes" open discussing sexual content. S.B. confronted the victim, asking him if anyone had ever done anything "inappropriate." When asked, the victim acknowledged ...

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