FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 23CR-16-94]
HONORABLE CHARLES E. CLAWSON, JR., JUDGE
J. Reece, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Jason Michael Johnson,
Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.
LARRYD. VAUGHT, JUDGE
DeWayne Duren was found guilty by a Faulkner County jury of
internet stalking of a child pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated section 5-27-306 (Repl. 2013) and was sentenced to
240 months in prison. On appeal, Duren challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction. We
trial, fourteen-year-old B.T. testified that in mid-2015 she
used her phone to message Duren, who was twenty-three years
old at the time, using an internet-based phone application
called Snapsext. B.T. told Duren that she was twenty-six
years old. B.T. did not meet with Duren and did not send him
any pictures of her.
February 1, 2016, Jason Bollinger, B.T.'s guardian,
discovered that B.T. had been messaging Duren. Bollinger
confiscated B.T.'s phone, changed the passwords on the
Snapsext website, and gave the phone to Chad Meli of the
Faulkner County Sheriff's Department. Officer Meli
confirmed that on February 1, 2016, he received a phone from
Bollinger along with a report that a fourteen-year-old girl
had been using the phone to message Duren on Snapsext. That
day, Officer Meli extracted the Snapsext data from the phone.
The Snapsext conversations between Duren and B.T.-who said
she was twenty-six years old-were sexual in nature. At one
point, B.T. asked Duren at what age was the youngest girl he
would have sex with, to which Duren said sixteen. B.T. (lied
and) said that her sister, who was fourteen and a virgin,
wanted to have sex with someone "who knows what
they're doing." Duren responded, "This will
sound shallow so I'm sorry for this, but what does she
look like?" B.T. did not respond. That was the final
Snapsext conversation between B.T. and Duren.
Meli, acting as "B.T., " attempted to communicate
with Duren on Snapsext, but Duren did not respond. Officer
Meli, again acting as "B.T., " texted Duren's
cell phone, and he responded. "B.T." immediately told
Duren that she was not twenty-six years old and that she did
not have a younger sister. "B.T." told Duren that
she was fourteen years old. Duren and "B.T."
discussed what it would be like for "B.T." to have
sex for the first time. Then "B.T." asked Duren if
he ever came to Conway. Duren responded that he was in Little
Rock almost every night for school. "B.T." said,
"[Y]ou should sneak me out one night." At this
point, Duren texted, "Let's say I did tonight. What
would you want me to do?" "B.T." responded,
"I wanna try and go all the way."
Duren and "B.T." texted each other a picture. The
State introduced the photographs into evidence. In the
picture Duren sent to "B.T., " he was holding his
friend's baby. The picture "B.T." sent to Duren
depicted a prepubescent female holding a stuffed animal.
Duren and "B.T." agreed that if Duren traveled to
Conway that night, "B.T." would sneak out to meet
him at Harps grocery store. He described his vehicle.
"B.T." asked Duren to bring some rum, and he
agreed. "B.T." also asked if Duren had a
"rubber, " because she did not want to get
"preggers, "and Duren said he had condoms.
"B.T." told Duren to text her when he arrived at
Harps, and he did. Officer Meli arrested Duren in the Harps
parking lot. The search of his vehicle revealed condoms, K-Y
Jelly, a bottle of rum, a knife (tucked between the
driver's seat and the console), and his cell phone.
testified at trial that he had messaged B.T. on Snapsext one
time in mid-2015. He said that he thought he had been talking
to a twenty-six-year old woman during that chat and that he
was not "thinking straight" when he made comments
about B.T.'s sister because he was
"inebriated." He said that he tried to message B.T.
again on Snapsext, but she did not respond. He said that
about six months later he received text messages from whom he
thought was B.T. He admitted that he knew at that time B.T.
was fourteen years old and that she was asking about how to
lose her virginity. He testified that he did not want to
sleep with B.T.; rather, he said that he showed false
interest in her so that he could meet her to warn her that
she was making a mistake by trying to have sex with an older
trial, the defense moved for a directed verdict at the close
of the State's case, and again at the close of all the
evidence, arguing that there was no evidence that Duren used
the internet to entice B.T. into a meeting for sex. The
circuit court denied the directed-verdict motions.
Thereafter, the jury convicted Duren of internet stalking of
a child. This appeal followed. Duren's only argument on
appeal is that the circuit court erred in denying his motion
for a directed verdict because the State lacked sufficient
evidence to show that he used a "computer online
service, internet service, or local internet bulletin
board" to arrange a meeting with a fourteen-year-old
girl to engage in sex.
treat a motion for a directed verdict as a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence. Kelley v. State, 103
Ark.App. 110, 114, 286 S.W.3d 746, 749 (2008). In reviewing a
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the State and
consider only the evidence that supports the verdict.
Id., 286 S.W.3d at 749. We affirm a conviction if
substantial evidence exists to support it. Id., 286
S.W.3d at 749. 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., 286
S.W.3d at 749. We defer to the jury's determination on
the matter of witness credibility. Id., 286 S.W.3d
at 749. Jurors do not and need not view each fact in
isolation; rather, they may consider the evidence as a whole.
Id., 286 S.W.3d at 749. The jury is entitled to draw
any reasonable inference from circumstantial evidence to the
same extent that it can from direct evidence. Id.,
286 S.W.3d at 749.
appeal requires us to interpret a statute. The first rule in
considering the meaning and effect of a statute is to
construe it just as it reads, giving the words their ordinary
and usually accepted meaning in common language. Holcomb
v. State, 2014 Ark. 141, at 3, 432 S.W.3d 600, 602. When
the language is plain and unambiguous, there is no need to
resort to rules of statutory construction, and the analysis
need go no further. Id., 432 S.W.3d at 602. We
review issues of statutory interpretation de novo because it
is for the appellate court to decide what a statute means.
Id., 432 S.W.3d at 602. When dealing with a penal
statute, the appellate court strictly construes the statute
in favor of the party sought to be penalized. Id.,
432 S.W.3d at 602.
relevant statute, Arkansas Code Annotate section 5-27-306(a),
entitled "Internet stalking of a child, " states as
(a) A person commits the offense of internet stalking of a
child if the person being twenty-one (21) years of age or
older knowingly uses a computer online service, internet
service, or local internet bulletin board service to:
. . . .
(2) Seduce, solicit, lure, or entice an individual that the
person believes to be fifteen (15) years of age or younger in
an effort to arrange a meeting with the ...