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State v. Hodges

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 20, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JENNIFER HODGES

          Assigned on Briefs January 10, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 2015-CR-0010 Jill Bartee Ayers, Judge

         Defendant, Jennifer Hodges, pleaded nolo contendere to six counts of statutory rape, a Class D felony, and one count of solicitation of a minor, a Class E felony. Defendant was sentenced to four years for each count of aggravated statutory rape and two years for solicitation. All sentences were ordered to run concurrently for an effective four-year sentence. The effective sentence was suspended, and she was placed on probation for four years. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by not granting her request for judicial diversion and that the trial court erred by sentencing her to the maximum sentences for her convictions.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Roger Eric Nell, District Public Defender; and Charles Bloodworth, Sr., Assistant Public Defender, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jennifer Hodges.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Kimberly Lund, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer, and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Background

         The following facts were set forth by the State at the plea submission hearing:

Your Honor, in July of 2014 the mother of DC, who was 16 at the time, found text messages on his phone in which the Defendant had detailed sexual encounters between the two. During a forensic interview DC described four specific sexual encounters with the Defendant in June of 2014 involving multiple penetrations, including both [penile] and [sic] vaginal penetration as well as fellatio.
DC also provided information that the Defendant had told him there were only three rules: That he couldn't tell anyone, there could be no anal and that he couldn't fall for her. In addition to these sex acts the Defendant did solicit DC for sexual intercourse.
During an interview with law-enforcement the Defendant denied any sexual contact, but did describe herself as a MILF and that her son's friends thought that she was hot.
Testimony at trial would also come from Michael Lagrant (phonetic spelling), to whom the Defendant admitted having sex with DC and that he was just another notch on her belt.

         After the facts were read, defense counsel made the following statement:

Obviously, we contest some of those facts. I've explained to [Defendant] that her plea of no contest, nolo contendere, is her admission that there is evidence out there that, if believed by a jury, could justify the returning of a verdict of guilty against her. She does not concede that all the facts are true and happened. She had had a preview of what DC will say, because this was actually subjected to a preliminary hearing at the general sessions level, and she had heard him testify on the witness stand. The Court will probably hear some of that at the sentencing hearing.
. . . this Defendant says I do not attempt, that what they say is true; I'm willing to spare the State time, effort and expense of a trial; the Court may treat it as if it is true because I am not mounting a defense to it because I have been assured in this plea agreement that I will not go to jail.

         At the sentencing hearing, the presentence report was admitted into evidence as well as a copy of Defendant's psychosexual evaluation and the victim impact statements. The presentence report notes no prior criminal history for Defendant other than one traffic offense. Defendant told the trial court that she planned to move home to Alabama with her children. She also told the court: "And I can guarantee I will never be in trouble again or have anything to do with anything that might set me in this situation again. . ."

         Defendant's statement, included as part of the presentence report, mainly focuses on how the current offenses have affected her and her family. It reads as follows:

I could give my side of things but I really don't think that would help me at this point. What I would like to say I have spent my whole life being judged, pointed at and disliked for many reasons. My whole life I have been a fighter and I have survived some pretty horrific things but I keep my head up and keep going. One thing I would like to put out there is I'm sorry that all this craziness has taken up the Judge[']s and court[']s time. I really need you to know in my entire life I have tried to do what[']s right. I'm not perfect or better than anyone else and I don't pretend to be. One thing I am very confident in is in no way after years of no criminal history did I wake up one day and choose to be a pedophile.
The events that have taken place over the past 2 years have crushed my family. It almost caused a divorce twice. My kids all 7 were removed from my care [and] put in separate foster homes for months[.] I am still trying to correct the damage done by that. My anxiety had been so bad they have had to put me on larger doses. My health has declined. My children were harassed to the point that I had to move them to 2 different schools before they were taken from me. My kids are my stren[g]th[.] I live for them. They are all I have in this world. I have de[a]lt with abuse physically and verbally my entire life but my children don't deserve it. I am embarrass[s]ed by everything that has taken place in the last 2 years. My family is just now recovering from financial problems due to the outrage[ou]s bond amounts. My bond company can tell you I have followed every rule set. I have tried to prove to everyone I am a good person. I really am! I guess what I'm wanting to get across is, I owe my children to make things right so I'm asking even begging for mercy. I can stand in court and hear all the bad things and lies they are going to say[.] I have taken worse from my own mother but my children can't. I am not a sex offender nor will I ever be[.] [I]f I could have one wish it would be taken off the SOR [Sex Offender Registry.] I would take probation for the rest of my life, but if that is impossible please allow me to be removed from that list after a short time. I was never in trouble before and I don't plan on ever being in a situation like this again. If it wasn't for my kids I would be a nobody but because of them and to them I am somebody and I would like to walk my 5 [year-old] to her first day of school and be room mom like I was [to] my much older children. I want to be involved [with] my kids schooling and [ ] sports. I want to be given the opportunity to be the mom I have always been until all this took place. My 2 older children (16 [and] 18) who I have always been close to are no longer close to me or even live with me due to the constant bull[y]ing and fear that they are being put through due to the family of [the victim] and the small town. Due to the separation from my kids my depression has escalated. I'm sure the ...

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