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Chawangkul v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

December 14, 2016

CHACHAWAL CHAWANGKUL APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE ARKANSAS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT [NO. 01CR-15-34] HONORABLE DAVID G. HENRY, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

          Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge.

         An Arkansas County jury convicted appellant Chachawal Chawangkul[1] of second-degree sexual assault involving then eight-year-old N.L., his girlfriend's granddaughter, and he was sentenced to serve five years in prison. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his directed-verdict motions because the State failed to prove that he touched the child for the purpose of sexual gratification. We affirm.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for directed verdict is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Davis v. State, 2009 Ark.App. 753. On appeal, in reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id. Substantial evidence is that which is of sufficient force and character that it will, with reasonable certainty, compel a conclusion one way or the other, without resorting to speculation or conjecture. Id. Decisions regarding the credibility of witnesses are for the trier of fact. Id.

         II. Sexual Assault

         A person commits sexual assault in the second degree if the person, being eighteen years of age or older, engages in sexual contact with another person who is less than fourteen years old and not the person's spouse. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-125(a)(3) (Supp. 2015). "Sexual contact" means any act of sexual gratification involving the touching, directly or through clothing, of the sex organs, buttocks, or anus of a person or the breast of a female. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-101(10). "Sexual gratification" is not defined in the statute, but our supreme court has construed the words in accordance with their reasonable and commonly accepted meanings. Elliott v. State, 2010 Ark.App. 185.

         III. Trial Testimony[2]

         N.L. lived in a home belonging to her great-grandmother, D.B., along with her younger brother, mother, and grandmother. N.L.'s grandmother, Karen Jones, worked with and had dated appellant, who was known as "Joshua." Karen and appellant were at D.B.'s home on the night of February 8, 2015. D.B. routinely slept with N.L. and her brother. When they went to bed, Karen took appellant to her bedroom down the hall. D.B. testified that, around 1:00 a.m., she had awakened to see appellant in her bedroom. She noted that his hand had been near her pelvis. Even though she was already covered, appellant had said to her, "I cover you up." D.B. stated that she had thought nothing of it until N.L. woke her a few hours later.

         N.L. testified that, around 3:50 a.m., she had awakened to find appellant on his knees on her side of the bed with his hand between her legs. N.L. said that appellant's hand had been underneath the covers and on top of her underwear. N.L. testified that appellant had said, "Shhh. Don't tell nobody, " and left the bedroom. N.L. woke D.B. and said that appellant had touched her "frog, " which was what she called her vagina. D.B. testified that, shortly after N.L.'s disclosure, she saw appellant as he came from Karen's bedroom; he put on his coat and left.

         Detective Sergeant Eric Brown with the Stuttgart Police Department interviewed appellant on February 12, 2015. Brown testified that, prior to the interview, he had read appellant his Miranda rights and had given him the rights form to read and sign. Brown testified that he had been satisfied that appellant ...


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