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State v. Rodriguez

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 1, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
DOMINIC RODRIGUEZ

          Assigned on Briefs June 19, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 2017-CR-123 William R. Goodman, III, Judge

         The trial court convicted Defendant, Dominic Rodriguez, [1] of one count of sexual battery following a bench trial. On appeal, Defendant argues that this court should reweigh the evidence because the State presented insufficient evidence for a rational juror to have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

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

          Roger E. Nell, District Public Defender (on appeal), and Crystal Meyers, Assistant District Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Dominic Rodriguez.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, and John Carney, District Attorney General; Helen Young, Assistant District Attorney.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This appeal arises out of Defendant's unlawful sexual contact with the victim, D.C.[2] In January 2017, the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Defendant on one count of sexual battery. Defendant waived his right to trial by jury and proceeded to a bench trial in May 2018.

         Bench trial

         D.C. testified that she met Defendant for the first time on the day of the offense, October 9, 2016, when she attended church at Central Chapel Methodist Church in Woodlawn, Tennessee. Her church's pastor introduced Defendant as a visitor to the church and asked the congregation to make him feel welcome. After the service ended, D.C. testified that Defendant was mingling with members of the congregation near the pulpit. D.C. approached Defendant and extended her hand to welcome him. Defendant grabbed D.C.'s hand, turned it over, and touched it to his genital area. He then put his other hand on her back to hold her in place and began rubbing her hand on his genital area. D.C. testified that Defendant held her in that position for between thirty seconds and one minute and that she could not get away. D.C. could not recall if Defendant was aroused at the time of the offense, but she testified that she thought Defendant's actions were sexual in nature. She also stated, "It couldn't have been an accident. He knew what he was doing." On cross-examination, D.C. testified that she was too shocked to tell Defendant to stop or to ask for help.

         Following her encounter with Defendant, D.C. went out for dinner with her husband, where she told him about the encounter. When they arrived at home after dinner, D.C. and her husband searched for Defendant online and discovered that he is a registered sex offender.[3] D.C. subsequently called the police to report the offense that occurred in the church.

         Defendant testified that he recalled hugging D.C. on the day of the offense but that he did not recall anyone touching his genital area. He testified that he had a girlfriend at the time of the offense and that he "wouldn't dare" intentionally force anybody to touch his genital area. He stated that if the offense did occur as D.C. alleged, it was an accident. He testified that if he had been aware that he was accidentally forcing D.C. to touch him, he would have immediately pulled away and apologized. On cross-examination, however, Defendant explained that he thought he had hugged a different woman. On redirect, he explained that he has a tendency to hug strangers but that he knows he should not; he did not elaborate on this point. He further testified that he had been in prison previously for sexual crimes involving a ...


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