may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
Anthony Chiaka Ekeanya,
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K7993518
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney,
50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102-1657 (for respondent)
Roy G. Spurbeck, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from a conviction of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(c) (1998), appellant Anthony Chiaka Ekeanya argues that the evidence was not sufficient to prove that he used force or coercion to accomplish sexual contact with the 16-year-old victim. We affirm.
When 16-year-old M.A. went to her friend N.E.’s apartment, appellant, N.E.’s father, was there. Appellant knew M.A. from her friendship with N.E. M.A. and N.E. decided to go to M.A.’s apartment, and N.E. went into the bathroom to get ready.
While N.E. got ready, appellant came into the living room wearing his robe. M.A. was sitting on the couch. Appellant asked her when her birthday was, and when she told him, he said that he would get her a birthday present, but that she should not tell her mother. Then appellant asked M.A. for a hug. At trial, M.A. testified that appellant approached her from the side as she was sitting sideways on the couch, put one arm around her, and brushed his other hand against her breasts on the outside of her shirt. Appellant kept feeling her breasts as he hugged her, then put his hand inside her shirt and touched her bare breast. M.A. did not say anything, but she pulled appellant’s hand away. She testified that she was scared and did not know what was going on. Appellant touched her on her breast underneath her shirt again, and she pulled his hand away a second time.
Appellant left the room, and M.A. ran to the bathroom door and knocked on it to get N.E. N.E. testified that when she opened the door, she saw M.A. standing there about to cry. M.A. told N.E. that appellant had been “feeling on her” and put his hands down her shirt. M.A. also told N.E. that appellant had asked her to come back when N.E. was not there. M.A. started to cry and told N.E. that she felt dirty.
M.A. and N.E. confronted appellant, who denied doing anything but giving M.A. a hug. The girls left and went to M.A.’s apartment, where they told M.A.’s mother what had happened. M.A.’s mother testified that both of the girls were crying when she saw them. She called 911, and St. Paul Police Officer Mark Richie later met with her and the girls. When questioned by police, appellant denied touching M.A. sexually.
In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jurors to reach the verdict that they did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court must assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any contrary evidence. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
A person who engages in sexual contact with another person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree if any of the following circumstances exists: * * *
(c) the actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual contact.
Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(c) (1998).
Appellant argues that the evidence was not sufficient to prove that he used force or coercion to accomplish sexual contact with M.A.
“Coercion” means words or circumstances that cause the complainant reasonably to fear that the actor will inflict bodily harm upon, or hold in confinement, the complainant or another, or force the complainant to submit to sexual penetration or contact, but proof of coercion does not require proof of a specific act or threat.
Minn. Stat. 609.341, subd. 14 (1998) (emphasis added).
Appellant argues that the evidence did not establish that he intentionally created an atmosphere of fear. He contends that M.A. did not testify that she feared that he would inflict bodily harm upon her or hold her in confinement, or that he forced her to submit to sexual penetration or contact. Appellant’s argument misconstrues the meaning of coercion as used in the statute.
[T]he meaning of sexual contact “accomplished by” the use of coercion may be interpreted as including a sexual contact “accompanied by” the use of coercion. The coercion required by the statute need not precede or be separate from the sexual contact. It is enough that the coercive words or conduct, and the fear they produce in the victim, are an aspect of, that is, they happen concurrently with, the sexual contact.
State v. Middleton, 386 N.W.2d 226, 230 (Minn. 1986).
Appellant approached M.A. while she was sitting on the couch and held her with one arm while he touched her breasts with his other hand. M.A. testified that she experienced fear when appellant touched her. Also, she had to struggle with appellant and pull his hand away twice before he stopped touching her. Furthermore, M.A. was visibly upset when she told N.E. about the touching immediately after it happened and when she told her mother about it a short time later. See State v. Daby, 359 N.W.2d 730, 733 (Minn. App. 1984) (prompt complaints and disheveled appearance support finding of coercion). The evidence was sufficient to permit the jury to find that appellant used coercion to accomplish sexual contact with M.A.