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State v. Resh

Supreme Court of Montana

September 17, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
HADLEY GENE RESH, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: July 24, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Nineteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Lincoln, Cause No. DC-14-82 Honorable Matthew J. Cuffe, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Kristen L. Peterson, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Doud, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Marcia Boris, Lincoln County Attorney, Libby, Montana


          Beth Baker Justice.

         ¶1 A Lincoln County jury found Hadley Gene Resh guilty of felony sexual assault. The Nineteenth Judicial District Court instructed the jury, without differentiating between the charged offenses of sexual intercourse without consent and sexual assault, that a person under the age of sixteen is incapable of consent as a matter of law. Resh appeals, claiming that his counsel was ineffective when he failed to object to the instruction because the age of consent for sexual assault was fourteen years old. We reverse and remand for a new trial.


         ¶2 In March 2014, fourteen-year-old R.H. was living with her father in Kalispell. Resh was married to R.H.'s mother, and they had three children together. Even though Resh was not R.H.'s biological father, she considered him her father. She lived with Resh and his biological children until she was ten years old.

         ¶3 Near the end of March 2014, R.H. was staying at Resh's home to celebrate her half-sister's birthday. R.H. went into Resh's bedroom where he was on his bed watching television and drinking wine. R.H. had noticed that Resh had been sad all day and wanted to see how he was doing. At some point, Resh asked R.H. to get him another glass of wine. R.H. went to the kitchen to get ice, returned to Resh's bedroom, and filled his glass with wine from a box in the bedroom. R.H. recalled filling Resh's glass more than once.

         ¶4 After filling Resh's glass the first time, R.H. changed into a pair of Resh's boxers because her pajama bottoms were too warm. R.H. stood next to Resh, who put his arm around her and began "trailing" his fingers up and down her upper thigh. R.H. said that is when she "thought something was fishy, so [she] moved" and got Resh his second drink. When R.H. came back, she sat on Resh's bed next to him to watch a movie. Following a funny scene in the movie, Resh commented that R.H. looked pretty like her mother. R.H. testified that Resh told her, "Stop looking at me that way," and R.H. responded that she did not understand what he meant. R.H. said that she was staring at Resh because it was nice to see him smile. Resh then leaned into R.H. and kissed her intimately on the lips and put his tongue inside her mouth. R.H. testified that this made her feel uncomfortable and that it was not the kind of kiss a father or stepfather should give his daughter. R.H. told investigators that she did start to kiss Resh back before asking herself, "Wait, what am I doing?" R.H. said that she was feeling confused when she started kissing him back. She stated, "I wanted to make him happy, but I didn't know what that meant. So I just did what he did; I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know if I was supposed to get up and leave, if I was supposed to just sit there and pull away, or if I was supposed to-I didn't know."

         ¶5 R.H. said that they both fell back; she was laying down straight and he was propped up leaning into her. While kissing R.H., Resh began running his hand up and down R.H.'s thigh. He was running his hands across the top of the boxers R.H. was wearing. Eventually, Resh put his hands under the boxers and R.H.'s underwear and inserted two fingers into R.H.'s vagina. R.H. noticed that Resh got an erection. R.H. testified that the sexual contact made her feel very uncomfortable. She was "in shock" and did not know how she was supposed to act. When later questioned by an investigator, R.H. said, "My body was accepting it. Like it felt like my body wanted it. Then I was like, no." When asked to clarify what she meant when she said her body wanted the contact, she stated that it moved in rhythm with Resh. Ultimately, R.H. shifted position and moved Resh's hand away, and the sexual contact stopped. Resh began shaking his head and continually apologizing. R.H. told him that it was okay and left the room. R.H. testified that she said it was okay because she did not want Resh to "beat himself up about it," and she just wanted to get out of the room.

         ¶6 After R.H. left Resh's room, she went into the living room and told her half-sister, K.R., that Resh made out with her and "violated" her. K.R. testified that R.H. appeared "nervous, shaky, not herself," and that she cried. R.H. asked K.R. to go into Resh's bedroom to retrieve her sweater because R.H. did not want to go back into Resh's room. The following morning, Resh again apologized and asked R.H. if she was okay.

         ¶7 R.H. eventually told her father and stepmother what happened, and they reported it to police. Investigator Devin Kuntz interviewed R.H. within approximately a month of the incident. The State charged Resh in September 2014 with one count of sexual intercourse without consent and with an alternative count of sexual assault.

         ¶8 The case proceeded to a jury trial. During the settling of jury instructions, the parties discussed the State's proposed instruction on the element of "without consent." It stated, "As used in these instructions, the term 'without consent' means the victim is incapable of consent by law because she is less than 16 years old." The proposed instruction was drawn from the applicable sexual intercourse without consent statute and the Model Criminal Jury Instructions. Resh's counsel did not ...

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