District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S.
Trease No. 141901008
Alexandra S. McCallum, Robin K. Ljungberg, and Katherine A.
Conyers, Attorneys for Appellant
D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Stephen L. Roth and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.
A jury convicted Defendant Angel Garcia-Mejia of sexually
abusing five of his six children. Now, on appeal, Defendant
argues that his convictions were based on insufficient
evidence because the testimony of his children was
"inherently improbable" and the evidence failed to
establish the requisite mental state associated with his
crimes. We affirm.
"Defendant is appealing from a jury verdict; thus we
recite the facts in a light most favorable to the jury's
verdict, but present conflicting evidence to the extent
necessary to clarify the issues raised on appeal."
See State v. Vigil, 922 P.2d 15, 18 (Utah Ct. App.
1996) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
On Son's ninth birthday, while traveling to pick up his
cake, Son confided to Mother that Defendant "was doing
inappropriate things" to him. Son explained that one
morning, about a month before, Defendant had been lying in
bed, covered by a blanket. He pushed Son's "head
down on his private" and Defendant's blanket-covered
"middle private in the front" went inside Son's
mouth, hurting Son's throat. Furthermore, Defendant and
Son sometimes shared a bed, and "two or three times a
week, " Defendant would "pull down his underwear,
" then pull down Son's "pants a little bit and
then put" Defendant's "private" on
Son's unclothed butt cheek. Defendant sometimes
masturbated while Son was in bed next to him.
Mother drove home immediately, separated the children, and
asked each of them if Defendant had "ever done anything
that is inappropriate and made them feel uncomfortable."
Including Son, five of the six children told Mother that
Defendant had sexually abused them. The State charged
Defendant with one count of sodomy on a child, a first degree
felony, and eight counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a
child, also first degree felonies.
At trial, Son's twin brother (Twin) testified that when
he and Defendant slept in the same bed, Defendant "did
some bad stuff" to him, including touching Twin's
"private." Twin clarified, "The one that I use
to pee with." Defendant would "move his hand"
while touching Twin. Other times, Defendant would "pull
down his pants" and "try and put his private
up" Twin's "butt." When this happened,
Defendant's penis would touch the "outside, like
[the] butt cheek, " sometimes over Twin's pants and
sometimes on his bare skin.
Another of Son's brothers (Brother) testified about
interactions with Defendant when Brother was nine years old.
He explained that in the bathroom, Defendant "touched me
in my private spot . . . [with h]is hand" when
Brother's clothes were off. And while the two were in
Defendant's bed, Defendant, with his hand, touched
Brother in his "private spot" over Brother's
clothes. Brother later clarified that when he referred to his
"private spot" he meant his penis. The touching in
the bathroom and in Defendant's bed happened "more
than one time." Brother also recounted abuse that had
happened while he was showering with Defendant. Defendant
"put his private spot in [Brother's] butt, "
touching Brother's "butt cheek."
Son's oldest brother (Oldest) testified to events that
occurred when he was eleven years old. When he was alone with
Defendant in Defendant's bedroom, "more than one
time, " Defendant put his hands down Oldest's pants,
touching his "front private" inside his underwear;
Defendant "was moving his hand" while inside
Oldest's underwear. Oldest further testified that he and
Defendant sometimes showered together. While in the shower,
Defendant "was trying to put his front private up
[Oldest's] butt" when his penis touched "the
left part of" Oldest's butt cheek. Oldest also
testified that he was present in Defendant's bedroom on
the morning that Defendant "was putting his private in
[Son's] mouth" and "holding" Son's
head. See supra ¶ 3.
Finally, Son's sister (Sister) testified that, when she
was twelve years old, Defendant "would touch [her]
breast . . . [o]n top of [her] clothes." This happened
"a couple of times, " and each time, she
"would try to slap him away." Sister also testified
that Defendant "once tried to touch [her] below the
waist." "He tried to put his hand . . . in [her]
pants, but he didn't succeed because [she] slapped him
Defendant maintained that he never touched his children
inappropriately. He suggested that someone might have
encouraged the kids to fabricate their accusations against
him. He also believed that the children had learned about
different sexual behaviors from inappropriate television
shows or movies and were "acting that stuff out."
In an interview with police, Defendant acknowledged that
Son's mouth had "come into contact with his penis,
" but he explained that "it hadn't happened the
way the kids were saying it [had]." Instead, according
to Defendant, one morning he was in bed with an erection. Son
"grabbed his erect penis through the blanket, and one of
the boys, " either Oldest or Twin, "pushed
[Son's] head onto his penis which was under the
blanket." Defendant was on the phone and "told the
boys to stop it." Although Defendant denied all of the
other incidents testified to by the children, he admitted
showering with the boys and claimed that the boys did
"sexually inappropriate things in the shower in front of
Defendant moved for a directed verdict on all of the charges
against him. The trial court denied the motions, concluding
that the State had presented sufficient evidence from which a
reasonable jury could find Defendant guilty of sodomy on a
child and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The court
highlighted the testimony given by Son and Oldest that
Defendant had pushed Son's "head down on his
privates." It further specified that the testimony
regarding "the way the touching occurred, "
"the number of times that it occurred and so forth, are
all things that would lead to an inference that would ...