FROM THE RANDOLPH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 61CR-15-008]
HONORABLE HAROLD S. ERWIN, JUDGE AFFIRMED
E. Lilly, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brooke Jackson Gasaway,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
W. GRUBER, Chief Judge.
A. Geelhoed was charged in the Circuit Court of Randolph
County with committing second-degree domestic
battering. The State alleged that on November 16,
2014, Geelhoed used a leather belt to administer
"licks" to his nine-year-old son, bruising the
child's buttocks and the backs of his legs; made the
child maintain a push-up position for up to 25 minutes; and
slammed his head into concrete, causing a laceration. The
State later filed a motion in limine under Arkansas Rule of
Evidence 404(b) to admit evidence to the jury about prior
violence and acts that Geelhoed had committed against the
victim and other juveniles in the family. At a pretrial
hearing, Geelhoed asserted that this evidence, prior bad acts
of physical abuse in the family, was not relevant to the
charge of committing domestic battering in 2014 and would
prejudice the jury against him. The court ruled that the
State could present Rule 404(b) evidence "only with a
limit[ing] instruction and if you approach the bench prior to
it being offered. It still has to be relevant and
admissible." Over Geelhoed's objection at trial,
witnesses testified about Geelhoed's prior physical abuse
of juveniles in the family. The jury found him guilty, and
the court sentenced him to 36 months' imprisonment in the
Arkansas Department of Correction. Geelhoed now appeals,
contending that the trial court erred in admitting into
evidence the prior allegations of physical abuse. We affirm.
case-in-chief, the State first presented evidence of the 2014
incident that led to the charge of domestic battering.
Sergeant Jessie McMillan of the Pocahontas Police Department
testified that he had been dispatched to the home of the
victim's mother the night of November 14, 2014, in
response to a child-abuse call. He testified that he saw
"pretty severe bruising . . . on the back of [the
boy's] legs and butt from the bend of his knees up to the
top of the waistline" and that the boy was terrified to
go back home to his father's house, where he primarily
lived. The child told McMillan that his father had given him
thirteen licks with a belt, slammed his head into the
concrete, and made him hold a push-up position. The child
explained to McMillan that if "you hit the ground [from
the push-up position] then it's automatic butt whipping.
My brother's record was forty-five minutes. I had
McMillan, Officer Mike King, and Allison Starr-the Department
of Human Services (DHS) investigator who was on call-went to
Geelhoed's house. He told them that the bruising could
have happened when the boy climbed out a window, jumped a
fence, or played with his sister. Geelhoed denied the abuse
The little girl in there and him seem to beat each other up
with something. I don't hit them on the legs. There is no
purpose in that. If I have a problem with him I put him in a
push up position until he falls. Everybody knows that burn
hurts. I don't have to whip that ass.
described the victim as "stubborn and crafty . . . very
scripted by his mother."
Starr testified that she had spoken with the victim alone and
photographed his bruises. She testified that other members of
the family signed a protection plan the next day but that
Geelhoed did not want to because, in his words, he "did
not use physical discipline." However, in the garage he
showed her a "cloth rolled up belt"; he said that
he used it for spanking and that it would not have made those
marks on the boy.
practitioner Leah Privett testified that the victim said that
Geelhoed hurt him "a lot" and recently had spanked
him thirteen times with a belt, had made him stay in a pushup
position for an extended time period, and had "pushed
his head in the ground, " causing an abrasion above the
left eye. She identified the photographs of his injuries as
being consistent with what he had told her; her assessment
and diagnosis was child abuse.
victim testified by closed-circuit television, explaining how
he "got the bruises" at his dad's house in
November 2014 for doing something wrong:
I was in the push-up position and he spanked me. I cannot
recall how many times. He hit me with a belt. It was a
leather belt that had metal [rings] on it; by the size and
the pain I was in, it was more than ten times. All I could
see was the ground. It hurt really bad. I had an injury to my
forehead. Dad slammed my head onto the concrete. . . . He is
the person who hit me and gave me the bruises but I think it
was out of anger.
point in the trial, the State alerted the court that the
State would attempt to elicit Rule 404(b) evidence from the
years 2011 and 2012. Geelhoed objected that the evidence had
no relevance to the ...