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Appeals court strikes lifetime GPS monitoring for sex offender

gps monitoring A Graham man serving 18 years for molesting a child won’t be subject to lifetime monitoring as a sex offender when he’s released from prison, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled this week.

Jonathan Donald Thompson, 24, formerly of Graham, was convicted in April of last year of first-degree sex offense with a child and taking indecent liberties with a child. The offenses occurred in September 2011.

The appellate court found that Superior Court Judge James E. Hardin Jr. of Durham County, the judge in the trial, shouldn’t have sentenced Thompson to lifetime satellite-based monitoring. Only a conviction of aggravated offenses allows a judge to impose lifetime monitoring. Neither first-degree sex offense with a child nor taking indecent liberties with a child are aggravated offenses under state sentencing laws.

Thompson will still have to register as a sex offender.

Otherwise, the appellate court found no error in Thompson’s trial. The unpublished opinion was written by Judge Linda McGee and was filed Tuesday. Judges Sam J. Ervin IV and Sanford L. Steelman Jr. concurred.

THOMPSON WAS appealing his conviction based on claims that Hardin should have excluded testimony by a pediatrician at CrossRoads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center, and should have intervened in statements by Alamance County Assistant District Attorney Paul Soderberg during closing arguments.

The trial included the testimony of a girl who was 4 years old when she said that Thompson touched her inappropriately during the night of Sept. 7, 2011. Thompson and one of his friends had been staying at the girl’s home and were helping the family do work on their home.

The friend testified he saw Thompson near the girl while she was sleeping. The girl told her mother about the incidents the next morning, after saying it hurt to urinate.

The CrossRoads pediatrician said irritation on the girl’s private parts was consistent with inappropriate touching.

In the opinion, McGee said there wasn’t evidence that excluding the pediatrician’s statement would have produced a different outcome at trial.

The pediatrician testified as an expert witness, saying that in all the cases in which she’s testified as an expert witness, her opinion has been that an examination showed evidence consistent with some form of sexual abuse. She also testified that the state had never prosecuted a sex offense case in which she’d formed an opinion that there wasn’t sexual abuse.

In closing arguments, Soderberg referenced the pediatrician’s statements and said, “If she did not think the crime occurred, the State would not have prosecuted.” Soderberg also referenced a DVD recording of a police interview with Thompson that defense attorney Jeff Connolly referenced in his opening statement. Soderberg said the attorney “didn’t keep his promise on that” when it didn’t show the interview to jurors.

SODERBERG SAID also that Connolly never asked to have DNA analysis performed in the case.

The State Bureau of Investigation declined to analyze a swab taken as evidence for contact DNA. The State Crime Laboratory didn’t have the technology to glean the trace amounts of DNA that might have been on the swab, SBI agent Jody West testified in the trial.

Connolly argued against West’s testimony in the trial, specifically citing prejudice toward Thompson and the lateness of the disclosure of the SBI’s failure to test for DNA, the appeals court found. But the attorney never argued for the trial record that DNA testing be performed, or recommended that prosecutors test the sample.

“Defendant fails to show that any of the State’s closing arguments were so grossly improper that the trial court erred by failing to intervene …,” the opinion states. “This argument is without merit.

Author:  By Times-News


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