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State v. Richardson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 25, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs March 21, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Putnam County No. 2017-CR-290, 2016-CR-1111 Gary McKenzie, Judge

         The Defendant, Matthew Douglas Richardson, [1] entered a guilty plea in the Putnam County Criminal Court to two counts of aggravated statutory rape. See T.C.A. § 39-13-506. The trial court imposed two-year sentences for each count, to be served consecutively under supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for judicial diversion. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Brett A. Knight (on appeal) and Shawn C. Fry (at trial and on appeal), Cookeville, Tennessee, for the Defendant, Matthew Richardson.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; Bryant C. Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Brett Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Norma McGee Ogle, J., joined.



         Between September and October 2016, the Defendant, age 28, met the victim, age 17, through her high school internship program and began a sexual relationship with her. In December 2016, he was indicted for aggravated statutory rape, and on March 3, 2017, while out on bond, he was indicted on a second count of aggravated statutory rape involving the same victim, for which his bond was revoked. On March 27, 2017, the Defendant entered an open guilty plea to the court for both counts of aggravated statutory rape with no agreement as to sentencing.[2]

         Sentencing Hearing.

         At the July 10, 2017 sentencing hearing, the State entered the Defendant's presentence report and psychosexual evaluation. A collection of letters of recommendation on behalf of the Defendant and proof of the Defendant's military service was also admitted into evidence. Significantly, the victim sent a letter of recommendation in support of the Defendant receiving judicial diversion. Bridget Cornwell, a probation officer with the Tennessee Department of Correction, testified that she prepared the Defendant's presentence report and confirmed that the Defendant cooperated with law enforcement and did not have a criminal history. The Defendant provided her with the letters of recommendation and proof of his military service as part of the presentence investigation.

         The victim testified that she turned eighteen in June 2017, approximately one month prior to the sentencing hearing. She had participated in an internship program through her high school that allowed her to shadow medical professionals in the health care field. She began participating in "[r]ide alongs with paramedics" in August 2016 when she met the Defendant, an emergency medical technician. The Defendant knew she was in high school and under the age of 18, and the victim knew the Defendant was 28 years old at the time. The victim began meeting the Defendant outside of the program and engaged in a sexual relationship in late September 2016. After the Defendant was arrested in December 2016, the victim "showed up" at the Defendant's house on March 3, 2017, let herself inside while he was asleep in bed, and they engaged in "sexual penetration." Despite court orders for the Defendant to refrain from contact with the victim, the victim attempted to contact and pursue a relationship with him.

         On cross-examination, the victim confirmed that she had not had contact with the Defendant since his bond was revoked on March 27, 2017. She identified the letter of recommendation she wrote to the court asking for leniency for the Defendant. She confirmed that she specifically wanted the court to remove the restraining order against him so that she and the Defendant may have contact with each other. The victim's parents were at the hearing and intimated that they were "behind the [S]tate[.]"

         After hearing the proof and arguments from counsel, the trial court addressed several factors before determining whether to grant the Defendant's request for diversion. The trial court found: (1) the Defendant's amenability to correction weighed favorably due to his military background and absence of a criminal history, but noted that it took issue with the fact that the Defendant re-offended while on bond; (2) the circumstances of the offense weighed unfavorably because the victim was a minor at the time of the offense, "she look[ed] up to" the Defendant, and he "took advantage of that[;]" (3) the Defendant's criminal record weighed favorably because he had no prior convictions; (4) the Defendant's social history did not weigh against him due to steady employment and military service; (5) the status of the Defendant's physical and mental health did not weigh against him; (6) the deterrence value to the Defendant as well as to others weighed unfavorably due to the need to protect minors (e.g., in the internship program the victim participated in) and due to the Defendant's disregard for the law when he re-offended while out on bond; (7) whether judicial diversion would serve the interest of the public and the Defendant weighed both favorably and unfavorably, but seemed to weigh more unfavorably towards the Defendant in order to serve the interests of society. The court also referred to State v. ...

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