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State v. Daffin

Supreme Court of Montana

April 4, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BRAD EDWARD DAFFIN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 1, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DC-14-28 Honorable Jeffrey H. Langton, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Colin M. Stephens, Nick K. Brooke, Smith & Stephens, P.C., Missoula, Montana.

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana.

          OPINION

          Jim Rice Justice.

         ¶1 Brad Edward Daffin (Daffin) appeals the judgment entered by the Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli County, convicting him of eight counts of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, three counts of felony Sexual Assault, three counts of Sexual Abuse of Children, and two counts of Criminal Distribution of Dangerous Drugs, and sentencing him to a cumulative total of five consecutive life sentences.[1] We affirm and restate the issues as follows:

1. Did the District Court abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of prior acts under M. R. Evid. 404(b)?
2. Did the District Court err in applying § 45-5-511(2), MCA, Montana's Rape Shield Law?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On January 9, 2014, R.S. disclosed to her school counselor that she had been sexually assaulted by Daffin, at the end of the previous summer, while she was 12-13 years old. Later that day, at Emma's House, a Children's Advocacy Center in Hamilton, R.S. participated in a forensic interview with Valerie Widmer (Widmer), a licensed clinical social worker with specialized training in forensic interviews. R.S. stated that she had met Daffin through her friend B.M., whose father worked for Daffin. During the interview, R.S. revealed that Daffin had forced or coerced her to have sex multiple times, and induced her to send him a topless photo of herself. R.S.'s allegations resulted in Daffin being charged with two counts of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, two counts of Sexual Assault, and one count of Sexual Abuse of Children.

         ¶3 Widmer conducted a forensic interview of B.M. the following day at Emma's House. B.M. reluctantly revealed that she also had been coerced to have sex and was sexually assaulted multiple times by Daffin during the previous summer, while she was 13 years old. B.M.'s allegations resulted in Daffin being charged with three counts of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent.

         ¶4 As the investigation continued, additional victims, former victims, and witnesses were identified. The victims and witnesses provided evidence covering a 20-year period of sexually predatory behavior by Daffin, as well as his use and distribution of dangerous drugs. The victims and witnesses provided details of how Daffin selected and groomed young female victims, eventually leading to him sexually assaulting them. From these reports Daffin was charged with additional counts of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Abuse of Children, along with other crimes.

         ¶5 A.K. was one of the additional victims located during the investigation. A.K. was 18 years old at the time of her forensic interview. She revealed that, during the time she was 13-16 years old, she had been sexually assaulted by Daffin on multiple occasions; engaged in sex with Daffin in exchange for drugs; recruited other young girls to have sexual relations with Daffin; and helped to transport young girls and drugs, from Idaho to Montana, for Daffin. A.K.'s allegations resulted in Daffin being charged with two counts of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, one count of Criminal Distribution of Dangerous Drugs, and one count of Sexual Abuse of Children.

         ¶6 A.K.'s older sister, K.C., testified that she had known Daffin her entire life because he and her father were friends. K.C. testified to "partying" with her father and Daffin as a young child. When she was 12 years old, K.C.'s father was sent to prison and Daffin began to "flirt" with her. From the time she was 12 years old until she was approximately 18 years old, she was sexually assaulted by Daffin; had sex with Daffin in exchange for drugs and money; recruited other young girls to have sex with Daffin in exchange for drugs and money; and transported drugs and young girls for Daffin. K.C.'s allegations resulted in Daffin being charged with one count of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent, one count of Sexual Assault, one count of Criminal Distribution of Dangerous Drugs, and one count of Sexual Abuse of Children.

         ¶7 K.D., a former victim, also came forward. K.D. testified that Daffin sexually assaulted her when she was 15 years old, shortly after she had completed a youth drug treatment program. K.D.'s allegation resulted in Daffin being charged with one count of Sexual Intercourse Without Consent.

         ¶8 At trial, these five girls and women testified in detail concerning Daffin's process of selecting, grooming, sexually assaulting, and, finally, coercing them to secrecy. Additionally, the State called 29 other witnesses. These witnesses testified to aspects of the investigation and about their knowledge of Daffin's patterns of victim grooming and abuse.

         ¶9 After R.S. made her initial disclosure concerning Daffin, a third-party reported to the school counselor that R.S. had been sexually assaulted in a park by a group of teen boys. When the school counselor questioned R.S. about this, R.S. denied making any such allegation, and said "no one had done anything" to her. Later, R.S. wrote letters of apology to the boys who had been named in the incident. While not explicitly acknowledging she had made false sexual allegations, she offered that the matter was intended as a joke. Around the same time, R.S. recanted her allegations against Daffin. Based on this information, Daffin requested a hearing pursuant to State ex rel. Mazurek v. Dist. Court of the Montana Fourth Judicial Dist., 277 Mont. 349, 922 P.2d 474 (1996), to present evidence of the false allegations made by R.S. and her recantation. After hearing the testimony, the District Court applied § 45-5-511(2), MCA, by ruling that evidence about the alleged sexual assault in the park by the boys was inadmissible, but that the evidence concerning R.S.'s recantation was admissible because it related directly to R.S.'s allegations against Daffin.

         ¶10 Daffin also moved in limine to exclude "other acts" evidence under M. R. Evid. 404(b). The District Court reserved ruling until trial, citing "the highly inflammatory nature of the evidence of sexual conduct." Later, it denied the motion in limine, reasoning:

The State has adequately explained how it intends to use the evidence to show motive, intent and mental state, knowledge, and identity, which are all permissible purposes for admitting other acts evidence. Daffin's arguments that such evidence should be precluded because it is remote, is beyond the statute of limitations, and/or does not constitute a criminal offense are without ...

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