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State v. Elias

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 30, 2014

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JESSE ELIAS, Defendant-Appellant

2014 Opinion No. 117.

Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

The judgment of conviction as to Count I is reversed and the case is remanded for proceedings to amend the term of Elias' probation as to Count II.

Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Jason C. Pintler argued.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Russell J. Spencer argued.

HORTON, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK and Justices EISMANN and J. JONES CONCUR. KIDWELL, J., PRO TEM, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 671

[157 Idaho 512] HORTON, Justice.

Jesse Elias appeals from his judgment of conviction for forcible sexual penetration by

Page 672

[157 Idaho 513] use of a foreign object. This case comes before us on review of a decision from the Idaho Court of Appeals. We hold that that the State provided insufficient evidence to support the conviction and therefore reverse the judgment of conviction.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On July 19, 2010, around 10:30 p.m., S.S. put her two young children (three and five years old) to sleep in her bed and shortly thereafter joined them. Hours later, at approximately 3:30 a.m. on July 20, 2010, S.S. woke up to find Elias seated at the end of her bed with his fingers inserted into her vagina. S.S. and Elias were acquaintances and Elias had previously been a guest in S.S.'s home. S.S. testified that, upon feeling Elias' fingers in her vagina, she rolled onto her right side and when doing so felt a " razor cut kind of burning feeling" in her vagina. S.S.'s maneuver resulted in Elias' fingers withdrawing from her vagina. Elias then touched S.S. again near her vagina but did not penetrate her. S.S. then rolled onto her left side and wrapped herself up in a blanket. Elias asked S.S. " do you know who I am?" Elias then attempted to touch S.S. a third time under her legs but his hand was blocked by the blanket. Elias again asked S.S. if she knew who he was. S.S. replied that she did, using Elias' first name. Elias then asked S.S. if she wanted him to leave and S.S. responded that she did, in fact, want him to leave. Elias left and S.S. called a friend and then the police.

At 6:30 p.m. on July 20, 2012, S.S. sought medical care from the Kootenai Medical Center because she felt burning when she urinated and she believed that she had suffered a cut inside her vagina. Dr. Henry Amon, an emergency room physician, examined S.S. Dr. Amon found " a relatively minor abrasion on the right side, on the inside of [S.S.'s] labium" that Dr. Amon found to be consistent with digital penetration.

The Kootenai County Prosecutor filed a two-count information against Elias on August 20, 2010, alleging that Elias committed penetration by foreign object, a violation of Idaho Code section 18-6608, and burglary, a violation of Idaho Code section 18-1401. The matter proceeded to trial and on December 7, 2010, a jury found Elias guilty of both counts. On July 20, 2011, Elias was sentenced. For the charge of penetration by a foreign object, Elias was sentenced to fifty years imprisonment, with ten years fixed. For the burglary charge, Elias received a concurrent ten year fixed sentence. The district court retained jurisdiction for one year. At the completion of the retained jurisdiction, the district court suspended the sentences and placed Elias on probation for fourteen years.

Elias timely appealed[1] and the case was assigned to the Court of Appeals, which held that there was insufficient evidence of use of force to sustain Elias' conviction for forcible penetration by a foreign object. We then granted the State's petition for review. We reverse the judgment of conviction for forcible penetration by a foreign object and remand for further proceedings to modify the length of Elias' probation.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

" When this Court hears a case on a petition for review from the Court of Appeals, it 'gives serious consideration to the Court of Appeals' views, but will review the trial court's decision directly,' and 'acts as if the appeal was directly from the trial court's decision.'" State v. Hansen, 156 Idaho 169, 173, 321 P.3d 719, 723 (2014) (quoting State v. Carter, 155 Idaho 170, 172, 307 P.3d 187, 189 (2013)). This Court exercises free review when interpreting a statute's meaning and applying the facts to the law. Stonebrook Constr., LLC v. Chase Home Fin., LLC, 152 Idaho 927, 931, 277 P.3d 374, 378 (2012). This Court " will uphold a judgment of conviction entered upon a jury verdict so long as there is substantial evidence upon which a rational trier of fact could conclude that the prosecution proved all essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Severson, 147 Idaho 694, 712, 215 P.3d 414, 432 (2009) (citing State v. Sheahan, 139 Idaho 267, 285, 77 P.3d 956, 974 (2003)).

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[157 Idaho 514] III. ...


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