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State v. Ryan

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 1, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs April 24, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sumner County No. 701-2016 Dee David Gay, Judge

         After entering guilty pleas to four counts of aggravated statutory rape, Defendant, Thomas A. Ryan, was sentenced to four years for each conviction. After a lengthy sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of sixteen years and denied all forms of alternative sentencing. Defendant appeals his sentence to this Court. Because we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant to an effective sentence of sixteen years, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Lawren B. Lassiter (on appeal) and Walter H. Stubbs (at sentencing), Gallatin, Tennessee for the appellant, Thomas A. Ryan.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; L. Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; and Tara Wyllie, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         In October of 2016, the Sumner County Grand Jury indicted Defendant for eight counts of aggravated statutory rape based on his interactions with a fifteen-year-old friend of his daughter. Defendant negotiated a plea agreement to plead guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape. The State agreed to nolle prosequi the remaining four counts of the indictment. A transcript from the plea acceptance hearing does not appear in the record on appeal.

         After accepting the guilty plea, the trial court held a lengthy sentencing hearing in order to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. At the hearing, Detective Scott Bilbrey of the Sumner County Sheriff's Office explained the manner in which the police came to question Defendant about his relationship with the victim. Defendant's wife called the dispatch and reported Defendant as suicidal. Defendant voluntarily went to the police station where he denied being suicidal. At that time, police had information about a possible relationship between the victim and Defendant. When confronted with this information, Defendant denied that he had a relationship with the victim, who was actually in another room at the police station. The victim informed police that she had penile-vaginal intercourse with Defendant on seven or eight occasions, all of which were preceded by digital penetration of her vagina. These encounters occurred over approximately a ten-month period when the victim was fifteen to sixteen years of age in various locations in Sumner County, including a local park and Defendant's daughter's bed.

         The victim informed officers that in addition to having sexual intercourse with Defendant, she performed fellatio on Defendant approximately ten times and Defendant performed cunnilingus on her on one occasion. The victim also admitted to sending nude images of herself to Defendant. The images, which constituted child pornography, were found on Defendant's computer. Defendant was not charged separately for any crime related to the possession of child pornography.

         Defendant initially admitted to Detective Bilbrey that he was close friends with the victim but denied any form of sexual relationship. Defendant met the victim because she was a friend of his daughter. Defendant explained that he taught martial arts to young girls and showed them various techniques for protecting themselves against attack. When Defendant was confronted with the victim's allegations, he admitted his involvement, claiming that he loved the victim and that his failing marriage led him to enter into this relationship with the victim. Detective Bilbrey explained that both Defendant and the victim sincerely believed that they were in a legitimate relationship.

         The victim read a letter at the sentencing hearing. In the letter, the victim acknowledged that she "looked up to" and loved Defendant and that Defendant taught her to have confidence. The victim explained that the relationship forced her into counseling for the last ten months. The victim had "guilt and pain" associated with the relationship but felt "calm" because she was getting "closure." She described the Defendant as a "coward" who possessed "child pornography" and "got off to the trauma of another girl." The victim did not think that she was Defendant's only victim.

         The record contains victim impact forms from both the victim's mother and father. The forms indicate that Defendant's actions had a substantial ...

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