Tape of Encounter with Undercover Officer Sufficient for Sex Crime Conviction

The Ohio Twelfth District Court of Appeals has held that a man caught in a sting operation at a park could be convicted of a sex offense when there is sufficient corroborating evidence to sustain the conviction.

The case is State v. Seelenbinder, 2013-Ohio-337.

The Defendant was charged in Mason Municipal with the offense of sexual imposition.  Officers had set up an undercover operation at a park.

An officer testified that the defendant touched him in the groin area. The Defendant argued that under Ohio law, the state must present corroborating evidence in order to convict a person of gross sexual imposition.  However, the  state had presented a video from a device carried by the undercover officer.

The detective was carrying an audio and video device in his hand, which he activated. The video, which was viewed and admitted into evidence, began after the detective and [the defendant] were already talking. The video indicates that the two men discussed whether either was a cop, whether either would expose himself, and what they might “do.”  At one point, the video shows [the defendant] reaching his hand down toward the detective. The detective told [the defendant] not to touch him. The detective testified that he had been instructed to say “Don’t touch me,” out loud, so the act of touching was preserved on the record when only audio equipment was used.

The court explained that the corroborating evidence necessary for a conviction “need not be  independently sufficient to convict the accused, and it need not go to every essential element of the crime charged.”  In this case, the video, along with other circumstances of the crime, provided sufficient corroboration of the officer’s testimony .

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