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State v. Hodgdon

Supreme Court of Maine

June 20, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
BENJAMIN H. HODGDON II

          Argued: April 12, 2017

          Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Berwick, for appellant Benjamin H. Hodgdon II.

          Toff Toffolon, Dep. Dist. Atty. (orally), Ellsworth, for appellee State of Maine.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Benjamin H. Hodgdon II appeals from a judgment of conviction entered by the trial court (Hancock County, R. Murray, /.) on a jury verdict finding him guilty of one count each of gross sexual assault (Class A), 17-AM.R.S.A. §253(1)(B), (4) (Supp. 2000);[1] unlawful sexual contact (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 255(1)(C), (2) (Supp. 2000);[2] and sexual abuse of a minor (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 254(1)(A), (3)(A) (Supp. 2000).[3] He contends on appeal, inter alia, that the trial court's jury instructions as to the counts for gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact were in error because the instructions did not require the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was not yet fourteen years old when those crimes occurred. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The jury rationally could have found the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Troy, 2014 ME 9, ¶ 3, 86 A.3d 591.

         [¶3] Hodgdon worked as a sixth, seventh, and eighth grade teacher from 1991 until 2003. The victim was born on March 16, 1986, and attended the same school where Hodgdon taught; Hodgdon was her teacher, tutor, and cross-country coach. During the summers of 1998, 1999, and 2000, she worked for Hodgdon's lawn care business mowing lawns.

         [¶4] When she was in seventh or eighth grade, Hodgdon began a sexual relationship with the victim. Hodgdon initiated the relationship by kissing the victim and touching her genitals both over and underneath her clothing. On a later occasion, Hodgdon and the victim had sexual intercourse after she had spent the evening babysitting his children. Over the course of their relationship they had sexual intercourse at Hodgdon's home, in his modular classroom, and in his truck both at the school parking lot and at lawn care job sites. Hodgdon also on one occasion performed oral sex on her at his relative's house in Northeast Harbor. The victim estimated that, in total, they had sex between thirty and forty times before she completed junior high.

         [¶5] Hodgdon and the victim remained in contact after she finished junior high school in 2000. She worked for him tending lawns during the summers of 2004 and 2006, and in the summer of 2004, when the victim was eighteen, Hodgdon performed oral sex on her in his home. They remained in contact both in person and by phone until July 2013.

         [¶6] The victim reported the crimes to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office in 2013. Hodgdon was charged by indictment on April 10, 2014, with four counts of gross sexual assault (Class A), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 253(1)(B), (4); two counts of unlawful sexual contact (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 255(1)(C), (2); and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor (Class C), 17-A M.R.S.A. § 2 54(1) (A), (3)(A). He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

         [¶7] Hodgdon filed a motion to dismiss on August 11, 2014, contending that the State permitted the spoliation of the victim's cellphone-from which an investigating detective had downloaded a recording purportedly made by the victim of a conversation between Hodgdon and herself-arguing that digital data on the lost or destroyed phone constituted "crucial, exculpatory, irreplaceable evidence." The trial court (Mallonee, J.) held a hearing on the motion on December 17, 2014, and denied it on March 26, 2015.

         [¶8] A jury trial was held on March 14, 15, and 16, 2016, [4] and the jury returned a guilty verdict as to Count 5, gross sexual assault (Class A), 17-AM.R.S.A. §253(1)(B), (4); Count 6, unlawful sexual contact (Class C), 17-AM.R.S.A. § 255(1)(C), (2); and Count 7, sexual abuse of a minor (Class C), 17-AM.R.S.A. §254(1)(A), (3)(A). The jury acquitted Hodgdon of all other ...


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