This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Cottonwood County District Court
File No. JV-05-85
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
L. Douglas Storey, Cottonwood County Attorney, Nicholas A. Anderson, Assistant County Attorney, 1044 Third Avenue, Windom, MN 56101 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson,
Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Harten, Judge.*
This case arises out of the alleged sexual contact by 16-year-old B.B.H. with a younger boy. On appeal from a delinquency adjudication on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, B.B.H. argues that: (1) the evidence that sexual contact occurred is insufficient to support the adjudication; (2) the district court erred by ordering disposition without making required findings regarding B.B.H.’s best interests; and (3) the statute requiring B.B.H. to register as a sex offender violates due process because juveniles are not afforded a jury trial in delinquency proceedings. Because we find sufficient supporting evidence in the record, we affirm the adjudications. Because the district court failed to issue the statutorily required written findings to support the delinquency disposition, we reverse and remand for additional written findings in accordance with Minnesota Statutes section 260B.198, subdivision 1(m). We restate the repeated holding that the predatory-offender registration statute does not violate due process by failing to afford juveniles a jury trial.
A few days later, J.P. was placed in residential care for treatment and evaluation for the sexual offenses he had committed. J.P. then sent B.B.H. a letter asking him not to tell anyone about their “secret.” During the adjudication hearing, J.P. admitted that the “secret” referred to his sexual behaviors with others and was not about the alleged sex acts with B.B.H. A social worker asked B.B.H. about the letter in February 2005. B.B.H. told her it was from a 12-year-old boy. B.B.H. said the boy was just a friend, but he disagreed with the social worker that an age difference of four years was inappropriate for a sexual relationship as long as both members are younger than 18.
B.B.H. testified at the delinquency trial and denied the allegations of sexual conduct with or sexual propositions to J.P. He admitted that he was in the basement with J.P. but insisted that nothing inappropriate happened. He claimed that J.P. had a reputation for lying and would exhibit jealous anger at B.B.H. if B.B.H. spent time with J.P.’s brothers or believed that B.B.H. was ignoring him. B.B.H. also testified that J.P. bragged about his own sexual offenses.
The district court found B.B.H. had committed both acts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Although the court found several contradictions in J.P.’s testimony regarding the presence of his brothers and the dates of the incidents, it found J.P.’s testimony credible. The court found that state records corroborated the allegations because they showed that B.B.H. and J.P. were at the same foster home in December 2004 and January 2005, and it concluded that the elements of the offense had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The department of corrections filed a predisposition report urging that B.B.H. represented a community safety risk and was in need of residential care because of his history of mental health problems, aggressive behavior, and sexual misconduct. The report recommended a delinquency adjudication, supervised probation for an indeterminate period, a 30-day inpatient sex-offender evaluation, 40 hours of community service, registration as a predatory offender, and a prohibition from any unsupervised contact with any child two and one-half years younger than B.B.H. The court adopted all the recommendations of the predisposition report. It adjudicated B.B.H. delinquent in a November 2005 order that did not address any alternative dispositions or issues of public safety and that included a conclusory finding that the indeterminate probation was in B.B.H.’s best interests.
B.B.H. moved the district court to modify the disposition, arguing that the court did not make statutorily required written findings regarding the best interests of the child and the alternative dispositions considered. The district court denied the motion, but it acknowledged that its disposition order “did not make a litany of findings regarding why the disposition was the least restrictive alternative.” After acknowledging the shortcomings of its disposition order, the district court found that because the sex-offender evaluation recommended inpatient treatment, it was the least restrictive alternative. The court also concluded that, given the seriousness of the offense, a stay of adjudication would not have been granted even if requested. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
B.B.H. argues that the evidence the state presented was insufficient to prove that he committed first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He focuses on inconsistencies in J.P.’s testimony and the lack of corroborating evidence. We are not persuaded.
Our review of an insufficient-evidence claim is limited to a
thorough analysis of the record to determine “whether the facts in the record
and the legitimate inferences drawn from them would permit the [fact-finder] to
reasonably conclude that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A defendant is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct
if he engages in sexual penetration with a child younger than 13 years of age
and the defendant is more than 36 months older than the child. Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(a)
(2004). Consent to the act by the
complainant is not a defense.
asserts that there was no physical evidence of J.P.’s sexual abuse and that
J.P. did not timely report the crime. B.B.H.
concedes that in a first-degree criminal sexual conduct prosecution, the
testimony of a victim need not be corroborated, but he contends the weak evidence
of guilt here requires independent
corroboration. See Minn. Stat. § 609.347, subd. 1 (2004) (stating that
victim’s testimony in criminal sexual conduct prosecution need not be
corroborated). We disagree. J.P.’s detailed and materially consistent
testimony is sufficient to support the guilty determination; corroboration is
B.B.H. sharply focuses on J.P.’s prior inconsistent
statements, his somewhat contradictory testimony, and J.P.’s admission to a
prior fabrication of a physical assault by his adoptive father. It is
well-settled that assessing the credibility of witnesses and weighing their
testimony are within the exclusive province of the fact-finder. State
v. Folkers, 581 N.W.2d 321, 327 (
B.B.H. next argues that the
district court committed reversible error by neglecting to make statutorily
required findings to support its disposition order. Following a delinquency adjudication, a district
court must make specific and sufficient written findings of fact to support the
disposition ordered, setting forth “(1) why the best interests of the
child are served by the disposition ordered; and (2) what alternative
dispositions were considered by the court and why such dispositions were not
appropriate in the instant case.” Minn.
Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m) (2004).
“The findings are necessary to facilitate meaningful appellate review,
to show that the district court considered all of the relevant factors, and to
enable the parties to understand the decision.”
In re Welfare of R.V., 702
N.W.2d 294, 304 (
B.B.H. argues that the district court failed to make findings explaining why the court’s disposition is in B.B.H.’s best interests and serves public safety, which alternative dispositions were considered, and why those alternatives were rejected. The state acknowledges the deficiencies in the district court’s order, but argues that the court’s amended disposition order in April 2006 complied with the statutory requirements. We find that the April order does not satisfy the statute.
The district court’s disposition order of November 2005 did not make the statutorily mandated written findings. The court concluded that continuing B.B.H. on probationary status for an indeterminate period “is presently in the best interests of the [c]hild.” But that bare conclusion is inadequate to inform our review. See R.V., 702 N.W.2d at 307-08 (holding that district court’s bare conclusion that stringent and regimented program best suited to help child rehabilitate is insufficient finding); In re Welfare of J.S.S., 610 N.W.2d 364, 367 (Minn. App. 2000) (holding that conclusory finding with minimal elaboration that child’s best interests are served by disposition was inadequate).
Although the district court acknowledged that its November
2005 order did not include extensive findings regarding why its disposition was
the least restrictive alternative, it also failed to adequately address why the
best interests of B.B.H. would be served by the disposition, and it failed to
remedy the noted deficiency. See In re L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 400
(Minn. App. 1985) (noting that record must contain specific evidence that
placement is suitable for specific needs of particular child to ensure
placement serves child’s best interests).
Additionally, because the district court’s disposition ordered
out-of-home placement and a change in custody for B.B.H., the rules of juvenile
delinquency procedure required the district court to consider and make written
findings as to why the disposition serves public safety, why public safety and
the juvenile’s best interests are not served by maintaining the status quo, and
how the program available at the custodial placement serves the juvenile’s
While the district court attempted to address the proportionality of the disposition in its amended order by considering the least restrictive alternative, it primarily relied on the fact that the sex-offender evaluation recommended inpatient treatment, and noted that its prior order indicated that all recommendations of the evaluation were to be followed. But an evaluation “is not an adequate substitute for the requisite findings, even though it supports the district court’s implicit determination that out-of-home placement is necessary to return [the juvenile] to law-abiding behavior.” R.V., 702 N.W.2d at 307. Because the district court’s order did not expressly substantiate the disposition with the statutorily required written findings, we reverse the disposition and remand for consideration of the necessary findings. On remand, the district court may or may not choose to reopen the record and take more evidence.
B.B.H. also contends that requiring juveniles who are
adjudicated delinquent for criminal sexual conduct to register as predatory
offenders violates his right to due process because delinquency proceedings do
not include a jury trial. This court has
previously rejected this challenge. See In
re Welfare of C.D.N., 559 N.W.2d 431, 434 (Minn. App. 1997) (holding that registration
statute as applied to juveniles does not violate due process and is not
inconsistent with rehabilitative purpose of juvenile court system), review denied (Minn. May 20, 1997). We have also held constitutional the registration
requirement for juveniles younger than age 14.
In re Welfare of J.R.Z., 648
N.W.2d 241, 249 (
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.