This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).








State v. Minnesota,





Lawrence Ronald Pylka,



Filed July 23, 2002


Parker, Judge *


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 00114359



Deborah Ellis, 700 Saint Paul Building, Six West Fifth Street, Saint Paul, MN 55102 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Avenue, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN  55487 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Foley, Judge. *

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant challenges his conviction on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, contending that the district court judge (1) improperly inferred that he engaged in sexual contact with his daughters’ “intimate parts,” (2) utilized the wrong statutory definition of “sexual contact” for a conviction of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and (3) improperly shifted the burden to him to establish his innocence instead of requiring the state to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  We affirm.





            When making a determination of guilt or innocence, the fact-finder is entitled to make legitimate inferences from the facts in the record.  State v. Hofer, 614 N.W.2d 734, 736 (Minn. App. 2000).  In considering the sufficiency of the evidence, the reviewing court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict and must assume the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved contrary evidence.  State v. Robinson, 539 N.W.2d 231, 238 (Minn. 1995).

Appellant agreed to have his case decided by bench trial on stipulated evidence.  The evidence consisted of the videotaped statements of his two daughters (eleven and nine years old) detailing and demonstrating his alleged abuse and three recorded statements he made to the police.  The girls stated that when they stayed at his house, appellant, wearing only boxers and a t-shirt, would get into their bed, climb on top of each of them in turn, and rub his body against them while making moaning noises.  Both girls claimed that, through the blankets, they could feel his penis rubbing against them while he was on top of them.  The girls pointed to their lower abdominal and groin areas when asked where they felt the contact and they demonstrated, using anatomically correct dolls provided by the interviewers, how their father would rub his groin area against their groin areas.

In his defense, appellant denies the existence of any sexual intent in his acts and maintains that he only rubbed his body against his daughters after they asked him to warm them up.  Appellant contends that his daughters are fabricating this story in an attempt to gain the mother’s attention after learning that she was adopting a work schedule that would minimize her time with them.  Appellant states that he believes the girls gained the ability to fabricate their stories in such explicit detail from watching television and attending school.  Finally, appellant points out that neither of his daughters directly states in her interview that he came in direct contact with their intimate parts.

Regardless of the merit of appellant’s statements concerning the veracity of his daughters’ claims, the girls’ physical demonstrations, both on their own bodies and with the dolls, provide sufficient evidence to allow the district court to infer that appellant made sexual contact with the girls’ intimate parts.  See Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 5 (2000) (defining “intimate parts” for the purposes of the criminal sexual conduct statutes as including “the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttocks, or breast of a human being”).  Because we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we resolve all doubts in favor of the district court judge’s decision.  See Robinson, 539 N.W.2d at 238.  Appellant’s argument is purely semantic and appears to be an attempt to take advantage of his children’s embarrassment when faced with the prospect of using the anatomical terminology.  It does not acknowledge that the trial court judge could properly infer conduct in violation of the statute from the import of the girls’ actions in the videotapes.  Therefore, based on our review of the videotapes, we hold that there was abundant evidence from which the district court judge could properly infer that appellant made sexual contact with his daughters’ intimate parts.


Appellant’s next argument is that the district court relied on the wrong definition of “sexual contact” when the court found appellant guilty of two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree.  Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. State v. Shifflet, 556 N.W.2d 224, 226 (Minn. App. 1996).  The purpose of statutory interpretation is to determine the intention of the legislature.  Id.  Under basic rules of statutory construction, words and phrases are construed according to their plain and ordinary meaning.  Baker v. Ploetz, 616 N.W.2d 263, 268 (Minn. 2000). 

A person commits second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota if that “person * * * engages in sexual contact with another person [and]: (a) the complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant.”  Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1(a) (2000).  “Sexual contact” for the purpose of second-degree criminal sexual conduct is specifically defined at Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11(a)(i-iv) (2000), where it states:

“[s]exual contact,” for the purposes of section[ ] 609.343, subdivision 1, clauses (a) to (f) (second-degree criminal sexual conduct) * * * includes * * * the following acts committed without the complainant’s consent, except in those cases where consent is not a defense, and committed with sexual or aggressive intent


(i)        the intentional touching by the actor of the complainant’s intimate parts, or


* * * *


(iv)      in any of the cases above, the touching of the clothingcovering the immediate area of the intimate parts.


(Emphasis added.)  Appellant contends that section 609.341, subdivision 11, provides another definition for “sexual contact” specifically reserved for cases involving children 13 years of age or younger.  Appellant believes that definition should have been applied in this instance.  To be sure, subdivision 11 of section 609.341 does have a separate definition for the term “sexual contact with a person under 13.”  See Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11(c) (2000).  According to this definition, “sexual contact with a person under 13” requires:

[t]he intentional touching of the complainant’s bare genitals or anal opening by the actor’s bare genitals or anal opening with sexual or aggressive intent or the touching by the complainant’s bare genitals or anal opening of the actor’s or another’s bare genitals or anal opening with sexual or aggressive intent.


 While appellant correctly concludes that his contact with his daughters does not fit this definition, he has incorrectly applied this definition to the language used in the second-degree criminal sexual conduct statute.  In doing so, appellant has effectively misinterpreted the function of the definitions section of the criminal sexual conduct statutes.  Because section 609.341, subdivision 11(c), provides a definition for “sexual contact with a person under 13,” it does not mean that all sexual contact with a person under 13 must fit that definition.[1]  Instead, the statute directs that any time the phrase “sexual contact with a person under 13” appears in the statutory sections to which section 609.341 applies, the definition found in subdivision 11(c) is used.  The only time the phrase “sexual contact with a person under 13” is used in the criminal sexual conduct statutes is in the first-degree criminal sexual conduct statute.  See Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1 (2000) (“A person who engages in sexual penetration with another person, or in sexual contact with a person under 13 years of age, * * * is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree if any of the following circumstances exist * * *.”  (Emphasis added.)).  It is clear that the legislature intended the latter definition to apply only to the first-degree criminal sexual conduct statute.

Consequently, appellant’s attempt to apply the definition of “sexual contact with a person under 13” from the first-degree criminal sexual conduct statute into the second-degree statute is incorrect statutory analysis.  See State by Beaulieu v. RSJ, Inc., 552 N.W.2d 695, 701 (Minn. 1996) (noting that statutes are to be given their plain and ordinary meaning); see also State v. Taylor, 594 N.W.2d 533, 535 (Minn. App. 1999) (stating that when interpreting statutes, courts should not define each word in isolation, but rather in context of other provisions in statute).

Using the definition for “sexual contact” set out for second-degree criminal sexual contact, we find that the evidence supports the conclusion that appellant intentionally touched the “intimate parts” of both his daughters.  Although it is undisputed that appellant made this contact over the children’s clothing and the bed covers, the statute itself and caselaw both qualify such intentional conduct as fitting within the statutory definition of “sexual contact.”  See Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11(a)(iv) (stating that “sexual contact” includes the touching of clothing covering the immediate area of an intimate part); State v. Lockhart, 376 N.W.2d 249, 252-53 (Minn. App. 1985) (stating that for purposes of second-degree criminal sexual contact, touching an intimate part over clothing includes touching an intimate part over bedclothes), review denied (Minn. Dec. 30, 1985).


Appellant’s final complaint is that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction because the district court focused on his inability to prove his innocence and not on the state’s ability to prove his guilt.  To support his argument, appellant points to several portions of the district court’s findings of fact where it was found that his explanations lacked credibility.  According to appellant, this was an improper shifting of the burden of proof to him to prove that he did not commit the crime.

In order to convict a person of any crime, the state must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.  In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 363-64, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 1072 (1970).  When the district court’s findings of fact are based on inferences and the weight of the evidence, it is not the province of this court to alter that determination unless it is clearly erroneous.  State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988).  When reaching this determination, the district court is permitted to reject the exculpatory statements of the defendant if the evidence as a whole supports a finding of the actor’s guilt.  State v. Hough, 585 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1998).

The evidence in this case was based entirely on the statements of the victims and the defendant.  The district court clearly stated in his order that he deemed the testimony of the victims to be credible and relied on the details of the victim’s statements to establish that the elements of the crime were met.  His conclusions at various points of his order that appellant’s testimony was comparatively less credible does not indicate that the judge was requiring appellant to prove his innocence, but instead establishes that the judge, as the finder of fact, believed that appellant failed to raise any reasonable doubt as to his guilt.  Ultimately, while the court does often mention appellant’s inability to adequately explain his actions, the court’s ruling directly states that he found the videotaped statements and demonstrations of the daughters to be more credible than the statements of appellant.  The evidence supports these findings, and we are obligated to affirm.  See Seidl v. Trollhaugen, Inc., 305 Minn. 506, 508, 232 N.W.2d 236, 239 (1975) (stating where resolution is based on assessment of credibility of witnesses whose demeanor can only be observed by the fact-finder, appellate court is obligated to affirm). 



* Retired judges of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] It is interesting to note that a logical extension of appellant’s argument shows that it would achieve an absurd result.  To apply the definition for “criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13” to all cases involving sexual contact with a person under 13 would mean that a person could never be convicted for engaging in criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13 unless the sexual contact involved the victim’s exposed intimate body parts.  This interpretation would afford less protection for children under the age of 13 than for the rest of the public against sexual predators.  An appellate court presumes that the legislature does not intend an absurd result when it passes legislation.  State v. Linville, 598 N.W.2d 1, 2 (Minn. App. 1999) (citing Minn. Stat. § 645.17(1)-(2) (1998)).