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United States v. J.A.S.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 12, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
J.A.S., Jr., a juvenile male, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: February 2, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Marquette. No. 2:15-cr-00018-1-R. Allan Edgar, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          C. Mark Pickrell, VANDERBILT APPELLATE LITIGATION CLINIC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Jeff J. Davis, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Alistair E. Newbern, VANDERBILT APPELLATE LITIGATION CLINIC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Jeff J. Davis, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: GIBBONS, COOK, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judge.

         In February of 2014, the eight year-old victim in this case, whom we refer to as KV, accused her seventeen year-old uncle, whom we refer to as JAS, of sexually abusing her on tribal land. Specifically, she said that JAS had vaginally raped her, though she did not use that term. The FBI soon interviewed KV, who described the assault to an interviewer who had conducted more than 5, 000 such interviews. JAS was thereafter charged with an act of juvenile delinquency, to wit, sexual abuse of a child under the age of twelve in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2241(c). The district court held a bench trial under 18 U.S.C. § 5032 and found beyond a reasonable doubt that JAS had sexually assaulted KV as charged. Although the Sentencing Guidelines would have recommended a life sentence had JAS been an adult, his maximum sentence as a juvenile was only five years of "official detention, " see 18 U.S.C. § 5037(c)(2)(A), and the district court sentenced him to three. JAS now appeals, arguing that the district court improperly admitted the video of the victim's FBI interview and that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the finding that he sexually assaulted KV. We affirm.

         In February 2014, KV lived with JAS, JAS's father, and her paternal grandmother in a home on tribal land in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. On February 20, KV went out to lunch with her mother, Shannon Lehre, and KV's maternal grandmother, Kathy Noel. Lehre and Noel discussed a local man named Dale Betlam, who had recently been convicted of sexually abusing his daughter Jessica-one of KV's closest friends. Lehre told KV that she should speak up if anybody ever hurt her like that. KV responded that JAS had "done that to [her]." That evening, Lehre questioned KV about what, exactly, JAS had done. KV said that she and JAS had been home alone together on February 18 and that JAS had "put his pee in [her]."

         Lehre contacted the tribal police the next morning. About a week later, two nurses examined KV for evidence of sexual assault. KV told the nurses that JAS had "put his thing in [her] thing, " which had "hurt." The nurses' examination revealed no evidence of vaginal injury.

         The tribal police promptly referred KV's case to the FBI. Catherine Connell-an FBI child-forensic interviewer with 28 years' experience-interviewed KV about the alleged assault. KV said that she and JAS were home alone on February 18, that she had gone into JAS's room to play videogames with him, and that minutes later JAS had pulled down both his pants and hers, covered her eyes with his hand, and put "his thing in [hers]." She also said that, when JAS was done, he had threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incident. KV further said that she had run from ...


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