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Sorum v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

June 21, 2017



          Short Law Firm, by: Lee D. Short, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Ashley Priest, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


         A Benton County jury convicted appellant Jeran Sorum of rape, second-degree sexual assault, and first-degree computer exploitation of a child. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of twelve years in prison. Sorum argues that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support each of his convictions, (2) his convictions for rape and second-degree sexual assault violate the prohibition against double jeopardy, and (3) the trial court erred in excluding evidence based on the rape-shield statute. We affirm.

         I. Jury-Trial Testimony

         Sergeant Mike Lira with the Benton County Sheriff's Office testified that the child-abuse hotline received a report from the principal of the Siloam Springs High School about an incident that had occurred off campus involving a student. Lira arranged for a forensic interview of that student, K.G., at the Children's Advocacy Center. Lira said that K.G. disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted by Sorum. Lira's investigation revealed that on Friday, September 27, 2013, twenty to twenty-five people-mostly teenagers-attended a party at Thomas King's residence and that alcohol was served. The victim was said to have been "extremely intoxicated." While Lira was interviewing witnesses about the party, he learned that there was a video from the party. Lira obtained a search warrant for Sorum's cell phone. The video had been deleted, but a detective retrieved it using new technology. The video depicts Sorum and Andrew ("Drew") Wall in a room with K.G. passed out on a mattress. Lira testified to what he thought he heard being said on the video. He attributes the following statements to Sorum:

1. "Wake up. Get in that ass. Oh yeah."
2. "I want to fuck that again, Drew."
3. "Get in there, bitch. If you don't do it, you're the biggest pussy I ever met."
4. "Should we really put a condom on it and fuck her with it? You gotta hold her shorts."
5. "Help me. Put it on the broomstick. Do it now. Start with the condom. Use the condom now."
6. "Give me-give me the fucking condom. Are you going to put it on your dick or not?"
7. "Oh, you're not? See if, uh, hold this. Watch this. This is redneck fucking, dude. Fat bitches have done gone to bed."

         Wall testified that he pleaded guilty to computer exploitation of a child in the second degree, and he admitted having told many inconsistent versions of the incident. Wall stated that he and Sorum were intoxicated but were aware that K.G. was "very high." Wall said that he and Sorum were "messing with some cats" in the hallway outside the bedroom where K.G. slept. Wall stated that, before going into the bedroom, Sorum had seen a broom and had said, "I'm gonna fuck her with this broom." Wall used Sorum's cell phone as a flashlight. Wall stated that the cell phone's battery had died at some point, that he had handed the phone back to Sorum, and that he had gotten a flashlight from his truck and returned to the room. Wall stated that Sorum had put a condom on the broomstick, pulled down K.G.'s pants, and put the broomstick in her vagina. He said that, although she had been sleeping, K.G.'s eyes suddenly opened when the broomstick went inside her. Wall admitted sending the following message to K.G. on Saturday night, September 28, 2013, via Facebook: "Something happened to you that night." When K.G. asked what had happened, Wall wrote, "You got f'd with a broomstick."

         Isaac Postoak testified that he pleaded guilty to computer exploitation of a minor. Postoak stated that he had attended King's party, but he denied being in the room with Sorum and Wall. He said that on the following day several friends from school were in his garage smoking K2, which he described as "artificial marijuana that you buy from a store, " and talking about the party. Postoak testified that Sorum said that he "had fucked [K.G.] with a broomstick" and that everybody had thought it was a joke until Sorum played a video. Postoak recalled seeing Sorum "poking around at [K.G.]" and putting a condom on a broomstick.

         K.G. testified that she was fifteen years old at the time of King's party. She said that she had consumed two or three beers and then switched to a "pretty big" bottle of Everclear that she shared with a friend. She and her friend were dancing inside, and they went outside where it was cooler. K.G. took off her shirt, under which she wore a sports bra. She then got on the ground and started throwing up repeatedly. She said she was dizzy, stumbling, and "wasn't really aware of what was going on." Her friends helped her inside, undressed her, and put her in the shower because she had thrown up on her clothes and had vomit in her hair. K.G.'s friends then dressed her in sweatpants and a sweater belonging to someone else and took her to a back bedroom where she lay down on a mattress and fell asleep. K.G. said she remembered waking up several times. The first time she awoke, she saw a bowl in front of her with vomit in it. The second time she awoke, Postoak had her hand down his pants, and she had pulled away. The third time she woke up, Manuel Crus had come into the room and was "asking me if I wanted to, " to which she had yelled, "No!" She awoke again to find Sorum on top of her with her legs pinned between his, and she turned her head and saw a bright light. K.G. said that she was "pretty certain" Wall was holding a cell phone, which illuminated the room. K.G. said that she was certain that Sorum was on top of her. She said, "Since the flashlight was pointing towards our direction, it made Jeran a lot more clearer than anything else, his curly hair and all of his characteristics from his body." She also testified that she had known Sorum before that night. K.G. said that her sweatpants had been pulled down below her knees and that her vaginal area was "really wet." K.G. stated that, when she awoke the following day, "it really burned to pee." She said that she had suffered no pain while urinating before that night.

         Three young men testified about the day after King's party when they were smoking K2 in Postoak's garage. Manuel Crus, who had attended King's party, recalled Sorum saying, "Remember last night? We were all drinking. We were all messed up. I have this video." Crus testified that, while watching the video, "[t]he words out of Jeran's mouth were that he fucked [K.G.] with a broomstick. No mistake about that. I remember it clearly." Brenden Hyde testified that Sorum was "excited" about showing them the video and said that he had "screwed" or "fucked" a girl with a broomstick. Jeremiah Knifechief testified that Sorum had pulled out his cell phone, showed them a video, and said something to the effect of "screwing a girl with a broomstick."

         Sorum took the stand in his own defense. He testified that he was seventeen years old at the time of King's party. He stated that he and others had been videotaping and taking pictures during the party. Sorum testified that he and Wall were intoxicated, that they had wandered into a bedroom, and that Wall had his (Sorum's) cell phone. Sorum said that he first realized K.G. was in the room and passed out when he saw her from the cell phone's light. Sorum said that Wall was recording when they entered the room. He stated that he and Wall were "just kinda goofing around" and "drunkenly exploring." Sorum said that he had taken a kitten and had thrown it on K.G. According to Sorum, K.G. was wearing sweatpants and a sweater and was under a blanket. He testified that Wall had handed him a broom for some reason and that he had begun swinging it around and had hit Wall with it. Sorum recalled that he and Wall had made a lot of noise in their attempts to wake K.G. and that he had eventually begun "prodding" her with the broomstick. He admitted touching her "thigh region." Sorum described K.G. as a friend from school and said that when friends pass out at parties, they "get messed with." He testified that Wall had produced a condom, opened the wrapper, and handed the condom to him. Sorum said that "[w]e did not have any plan that was sexual at all." Sorum said that he had unrolled the condom onto the broomstick, swung it around a few more times, "sort of danced around the room a little more, " and then left the room. Sorum said that he left the party soon after that. He said that the following morning, Wall and a female returned his phone and that he had not even realized that he had forgotten it at the party.

         Sorum was asked about the voices on the video. He said, "I have no clue what I meant by 'Get in that ass.' I have no clue if I even said that. I did not hear it." He did not recall saying any of the things on the video testified to by Lira. He said that he did not recall the "redneck fucking" comment but said, "I did hear that. I did hear something along the lines of that. I did hear that. More like what was said was probably like this is redneck shit. The room is redneck. It was trashy redneck. I didn't hear 'This is redneck fucking, dude.' I did not hear that."

         Sorum further testified that everyone was smoking K2 in Postoak's garage the following day and talking about how crazy the party had gotten. Sorum started "going through" his cell phone and realized for the first time that there was a video. Sorum said that he had told the other boys, "Let's watch this." He denied saying that he had "fucked, " "f'd, " or "screwed" a girl with a broomstick. When asked why his good friends would say otherwise, he said that they were either mistaken or lying and maybe trying "to save their own ass." Sorum said that the video was dark and of "crappy quality" and that no one had been excited about watching ...

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