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State v. Addair

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 11, 2019


          Session: May 30, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County No. S67-410 James F. Goodwin, Jr., Judge

         Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant, Jonathan Addair, of child abuse and domestic assault. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction into the child abuse conviction and sentenced the Defendant to serve three years and six months in confinement. On appeal the Defendant asserts the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for child abuse, and the trial court's sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

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

          Jonathan Sevier Cave, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathan Wayne Addair.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Emily M. Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



         I. Facts

         This case arises from a physical interaction related to discipline between the Defendant and his three-year-old daughter, M.A.[1] Consequently, a Sullivan County grand jury indicted the Defendant for child abuse and domestic assault. The Defendant waived his right to a jury trial and elected to have a bench trial. At the bench trial on the charges, the parties presented the following evidence: Kasandra Berry testified that she was in a "dating relationship" with the Defendant in September 2016, and alternated her residence between the Defendant's trailer and her aunt's home.

         On the night of September 24, 2016, Ms. Berry was at the Defendant's residence in Sullivan County with her two minor children. Ms. Berry recalled that the Defendant's two minor children were also present. The children had been in "[t]he boys' room at the far end of the trailer" jumping. The Defendant, who had been in his bedroom, went into the room and told the children to stop jumping. The Defendant returned to his bedroom where he could observe the children through a video camera baby monitor. The Defendant's daughter, M.A., continued jumping. Ms. Berry was seated in the living room but followed the Defendant as he "stormed" through the trailer to the boys' room. The Defendant was "screaming" and then picked M.A. up and held her against the wall by her throat. As he held her by the throat, the Defendant continued "scream[ing]" at M.A., demanding she stop jumping on the bed. He then put M.A. in her bedroom.

         Ms. Berry testified that she witnessed the entire interaction and recorded a portion of it on her cell phone. She said that she first made sure the flash was turned off on her camera phone so that the Defendant would not know she was recording him. According to Ms. Berry, after the Defendant carried M.A. to her bedroom, he returned to the boys' room and "yelled at the other three children" before going back to his bedroom. Once the Defendant had returned to his room, Ms. Berry went to M.A.'s bedroom to check on her. She recalled that M.A. was crying and stated that she was scared. Ms. Berry said that, while comforting M.A., she did not notice any marks on M.A., but explained that it was dark in the room.

         Ms. Berry testified that her cell phone at the time was a DROID Mini. While she no longer owned that phone, she had saved the recording to a "Keepsafe app." Ms. Berry used the password-protected app for storage and confirmed that she had not shared the password for the account with anyone. Ms. Berry explained her reasoning for moving the recording to a secured location as follows:

Because [the Defendant] would go through my phone, look at things, and we would argue. So when I was worried where there was arguments that night, that [the Defendant] would go through it and see the video and then it would just be worse. So I put it in there so no one could see it.

         Ms. Berry confirmed that she had not altered the recording in any way.

         Ms. Berry testified that she did not report the incident to the police for several days. She explained that she did not do so immediately because she and all four children were at the Defendant's trailer. The Defendant went to North Carolina for work the day after the incident, and the children went to other residences. Ms. Berry stated that, because of this incident and other issues, she planned to leave the Defendant but wanted to first retrieve her belongings from the trailer. Additionally, she did not believe the police would go to another state to retrieve the Defendant, so she waited until he returned. On the night he called to tell her he was at home, she notified the police of the incident with M.A.

         Ms. Berry testified that she had reviewed a copy of the recording she had given to the police and confirmed that it was an accurate depiction of what had occurred. She stated that the recording had not been altered. The State played the recording for the trial court. Ms. Berry identified the man in the video as the Defendant and the voice heard yelling and cursing at the children as the Defendant's voice. The video recording begins with the Defendant pinning M.A., approximately four to five feet above the ground, against the wall by her neck while he yells at her. M.A.'s face is bright red, she is crying loudly, and her face is pinched and contorted. He then carries her down the hall and puts her in her ...

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