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Echoles v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

May 31, 2017



          Theodis N. Thompson, Jr., for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          Whiteaker and Murphy, JJ., agree.

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

         Ryan O'Neal Echoles was convicted by a Pulaski County Circuit Court jury of fourth-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to thirty days in jail and fined $2500. On appeal he argues that the evidence supporting his conviction was insufficient. We affirm.

         On June 1, 2016, there was a trial on the matter. K.P., who was fourteen at the time of the incident, testified that on the evening of April 27, 2014, she and her nine-year-old sister were visiting Echoles at his home. K.P. stated that while they were in the kitchen making milkshakes, Echoles asked her "Do you want to make some extra money?" and that she agreed, thinking he was going to ask her to wash dishes. K.P. testified that Echoles asked her if she would promise not to tell anyone, and she agreed. K.P. recounted that Echoles pushed her against the wall and began groping her buttocks and kissing her on her mouth. K.P. testified that she told Echoles to stop, that she was uncomfortable, and that she then returned to the living room. K.P. explained that she told her sister that it was time to leave. K.P. testified that Echoles walked them home. K.P. did not tell her family about the assault that night, and she testified that the next day while she was at school she became upset. K.P. recounted that she told her teacher what had happened and that the teacher took her to the school guidance counselor, who called her mother.

         K.P.'s teacher testified that the day she took K.P. to the school counselor, K.P. had seemed "shaky" and more introverted than usual, and that when she took K.P. out into the hall to ask her what had happened, K.P. became very upset, which was unusual for her. K.P.'s guidance counselor testified that the teacher brought K.P. to his office, where she told him what had happened. The guidance counselor testified that he immediately called K.P.'s mother.

         K.P.'s mother testified at the trial that she first heard of the incident when the school counselor called her. She recalled that on the evening of April 27, 2014, K.P. had not wanted to drink the milkshake she had brought home from Echoles's home, and it was unusual for her to refuse ice cream. K.P.'s mother testified that, after she spoke to the guidance counselor, she filed a police report at the North Little Rock Police Department. She explained that a couple of days after the incident, she and K.P. met and spoke with Detective Julie Eckart to give a recorded statement.

         Detective Eckart testified that she had been assigned to K.P.'s case and that K.P.'s mother brought her into the office to make a report. Detective Eckart testified that K.P. seemed truthful and forthcoming. Eckart recounted that K.P. told her that Echoles asked her, "are you ready to make some extra money?" and that he pushed her up against the wall, grabbed her, and started kissing her. Eckart testified that K.P. indicated to her that she pushed Echoles away from her when he touched her buttocks and told him no.

         Officer Rodney Thomas of the North Little Rock Police Department testified that he conducted the follow-up interview regarding K.P.'s allegation of sexual assault. Detective Thomas testified that he took K.P.'s statement and that she told him Echoles had asked her if she was "ready to work for some money, " and that he touched her buttocks and kissed her on the lips.

         Echoles testified at his trial. He explained that K.P. and her sister had regularly visited his home-about three or four times a week. Echoles explained that he had been concerned for their mother, whom he had known for years, because she had been moody and withdrawn. Echoles testified that he often cooked for the kids, helped them with homework, and occasionally gave them money for doing chores because their mother had not been working. Echoles explained that on April 27, 2014, the girls had been at his house eating and watching television but had left his home early because there was a tornado in the area. Echoles asserted that, around that time, K.P.'s family members had been upset because he was planning on accepting a promotion and moving to Helena. He testified that the children often asked if he would marry their mother, though Echoles testified that he had not been in a relationship with K.P.'s mother. Echoles denied touching or kissing K.P.

         Echoles's attorney moved for a directed verdict. He asserted that

[s]pecifically, there is no evidence that my client unlawfully engaged in sexual contact for the purposes of gratification of the defendant. And there has been zero evidence put forward of anything regarding that there is a statement ...

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