JONATHEN E. MANEK APPELLANT
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE CLEBURNE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 12CR-17-81]
HONORABLE TIM WEAVER, JUDGE
Alan Jesse, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
Jonathen Manek appeals from his convictions for ten counts of
possessing, viewing, or distributing materials containing
sexually explicit conduct involving a minor child in
violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-27-602 (Repl.
2013). On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient
to support those convictions. We affirm.
bench trial on the charges, the following narrative was
developed. Manek and a woman named Brandy Reed became friends
on Facebook sometime around February 2017. A relationship
developed between the two and they started texting. According
to Reed, Manek began requesting naked photos of her children
and he sent her several inappropriate pictures of children.
Reed went to the home of her friend, Justin Kramer, to tell
him about what was happening. Reed told Kramer she had to
report the images, but that she had to work the next day.
Kramer agreed to go to the police for her the next morning.
Kramer went to the police that next morning with some
screenshots from Reed's phone. Reed then went to the
police station that afternoon and met with an investigator
for the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office, Jennifer
Osborne instructed Reed to take screenshots of all her text
conversations with Manek and the photos he sent her and then
Investigator Osborne downloaded those screenshots onto her
computer. After she downloaded the screenshots to her
computer, Investigator Osborne informed Reed that she could
delete the images from her phone. Reed deleted the images and
her text history with Manek. Reed left with her phone, and
Investigator Osborne obtained a warrant and subpoenaed
Manek's phone carrier for records covering the period
when he was communicating with Reed.
subpoena resulted in records for 75 phone calls, 390 text
messages, and 8160 multimedia messages during the time frame
at issue. Every plain text message sent by Manek was
reproduced verbatim in the carrier records. Text messages
with emojis were shown as data error messages, and images
sent by text would not display in the carrier records but
appeared as an EMS data error. These records provided
Investigator Osborne the dates and times for the text
messages and images sent by Manek to Reed.
obtained warrants for Manek's phone and apartment and for
Reed's phone. Reed's and Manek's phones were
taken to the state police lab for forensic investigations.
Special Agent Brandon Lofton with the Arkansas State Police
testified that he was unable to retrieve any data from either
phone that corresponded to the child-pornography allegations.
Reed had deleted the images and messages from her phone, but
Agent Lofton was able to determine that Manek's phone had
been completely reset on March 2, 2017, between the time that
Reed had told authorities about the child pornography Manek
had sent her and when the warrant was executed.
Lofton's inability to produce evidence relating to the
child-pornography charges, at the hearing, a significant
portion of the text conversation between Reed and Manek was
read aloud from the screenshots. The screenshots of those
conversations and of the child pornography were admitted into
evidence without any objection from defense counsel. The
defense moved for a directed verdict at the close of the
State's evidence and again at the close of all the
evidence, alleging that the evidence presented was not
sufficient to support the convictions. The court denied that
motion, and Manek was found guilty on all charges and
received a ten-year sentence on each of the ten counts to be
served concurrently. Manek timely appeals.
sole argument on appeal is that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for directed verdict. Because this was a
bench trial, his motion for directed verdict was, in reality,
a motion to dismiss. Cora v. State, 2009 Ark.App.
431, at 3, 319 S.W.3d 281, 283. A motion to dismiss at a
bench trial, like a motion for directed verdict at a jury
trial, is considered a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence. Id. We will affirm a trial court's
denial of the motion if there is substantial evidence, either
direct or circumstantial, to support the verdict.
Id. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough
to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion
and conjecture. Id. The evidence is viewed in the
light most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence
supporting the verdict is considered. Id.
was charged with, and found guilty of, ten counts of
distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting
sexually explicit conduct involving a child in violation of
Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-27-602. On appeal, he
argues that the State never produced any actual photographs
from his phone and that while forensic data could establish
that he was texting Reed, any images he sent were only
recorded as errors. He further explains that screenshots can
be photoshopped to appear to contain things that they really
do not. Manek asserts that without having the original images
or text messages from either his or Reed's phones, there
is no way to determine if those screenshots were altered.
These arguments, however, seek to place this court in the
position of reweighing the evidence presented to the trial
court, and this we will not do. See, e.g., Reed
v. State, 2011 Ark.App. 352, at 2, 383 S.W.3d 881, 883.
stated earlier, rather than reweigh the evidence presented at
trial, we determine whether there is substantial evidence to
support the lower court's findings. See, e.g.,
id. To the extent Manek challenges the authenticity
of the screenshots, he did not object to their introduction.
Once admitted, the court, as the fact finder, was able to
weigh the evidence before it and reach its conclusion. Here,
substantial evidence supports the lower court's findings.
Reed testified about her relationship with Manek and what she
had received from him on her phone. The State introduced
screenshots and photos that had been pulled directly from
Reed's phone. Manek's phone had been wiped by the
time the police took it, and the court stated from the bench
that it perceived that as evidence of consciousness of guilt.
Investigator Osborne testified that the data records from
Manek's cell carrier coincide with the messages in the
screenshots and the general time frame that Reed established.
took the stand to try and explain that his account was
hacked, and the screenshots were fabricated, but that was for
the lower court to believe-or not. Witness credibility is an
issue for the fact-finder, who is free to believe all or a
portion of any witness's testimony and whose duty it ...