may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Chukwuemeka Bonas Edozie,
Filed January 12, 1999
Dakota County District Court
File No. KG-97-1865
Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Lawrence F. Clark, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, D. Adrian Bryan, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant Chukwuemeka Bonas Edozie challenges his conviction of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b), arguing that he established the affirmative defense of mistake of age. We affirm.
During the next two days, the police visited and the parents telephoned the apartment several times. On one visit, a detective told appellant that D.M.P. was a 14-year-old runaway. In a telephone conversation, D.M.P.'s father told appellant that D.M.P. had just turned 14 years of age. Some time after these contacts, appellant had sexual intercourse with D.M.P.
After D.M.P. was apprehended, her father took her to the hospital where a sexual assault kit was collected. D.M.P. admitted to her father and the police that she had had intercourse with appellant and she said that appellant was aware of her age because she had been dating his roommate for some time. The police arrested appellant and obtained a sample of his blood. The DNA from the sample matched the DNA in the semen recovered from D.M.P.
At his nonjury trial for criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, appellant asserted the affirmative defense of mistake of age. He testified that D.M.P. associated with older boys, smoked cigarettes, wore makeup, and never told him her age. The trial court found him guilty. He appeals from the judgment of conviction.
A conviction will not be overturned if this court determines from the facts in the record, and any legitimate inferences that can be drawn from them, that the trial court could reasonably conclude that appellant was guilty of the crime charged. See State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988).
A person who engages in sexual penetration with another is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if he is more than 24 months older than the other and the other is at least 13 but less than 16 years old. Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b)(1996). As an affirmative defense, the actor must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he believed the complainant to be 16 years of age or older. Id.
The trial court found that the 19-year-old appellant had committed criminal sexual conduct in the third degree against D.M.P. and that he had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he reasonably believed D.M.P. to be at least 16 years old.
Appellant argues that D.M.P.'s use of makeup, her smoking, and her association with older individuals, together with the fact that she never told him her age, reasonably misled him to believe she was older. This evidence is contrasted with testimony by D.M.P.'s father and a police detective that they told appellant of D.M.P.'s age, and by D.M.P. herself who claimed that appellant knew her age.
With this conflicting evidence, the trier of fact was in the best position to assess the credibility of the witnesses. Powe v. State, 389 N.W.2d 215, 219 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. July 31, 1986). The trial court was present to see and hear D.M.P. as she testified and to judge by her manner and appearance the reasonableness of appellant's alleged belief about her age. Viewing the evidence and credibility determinations in a light most favorable to the state as the prevailing party, we hold that the trial court reasonably concluded that appellant committed criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and that he was not mistaken about D.M.P.'s age.