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State v. Stempfley

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 16, 2017

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Randall Samuel Stempfley, Respondent.

         Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; Christopher J. Strandlie, Cass County Attorney, Walker, Minnesota; and Scott A. Hersey, Special Assistant County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Rachel F. Bond, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The district court made sufficient findings of fact to support the grounds for the dispositional sentencing departure.

         2. The record supports the district court's finding that the respondent's offense was less serious than the typical offense of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          CHUTICH, Justice.

         A jury acquitted respondent Randall Samuel Stempfley of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct as a principal, but found him guilty of third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct on an accomplice-liability theory. At sentencing, Stempfley moved for a downward dispositional departure, arguing in part that he played a "minor or passive role" in the crime. The district court granted Stempfley's motion, stayed execution of a 140-month sentence for 15 years, and required Stempfley to comply with numerous probationary conditions. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed.

         The State petitioned for review, arguing that the district court did not make findings of fact on the departure grounds and, alternatively, that the record does not support the district court's finding that Stempfley played a minor or passive role in the crime. The State does not argue that the sentencing factor of a minor or passive role in the crime cannot be used to support a dispositional departure. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On October 30, 2012, B.D., age 14, was visiting friends in Bena. Tina Smith, then 24 years old, arrived and invited B.D. to come drink alcohol with her across the street at Smith's grandmother's house. B.D. and a friend accepted the invitation and drank from a bottle of rum with Smith and her boyfriend, Stempfley, who was 38 years old. Eventually B.D. and her friend both left. Before they left, Smith told B.D. to call her later, giving her Stempfley's phone number. Smith answered when B.D. called about 30 minutes later, and invited B.D. to a cabin rented by Stempfley.

         Late that night, B.D. walked about a half mile to the cabin, a single-room dwelling furnished with a bed and a futon. B.D., Smith, and Stempfley drank from a liter bottle of rum that Stempfley had purchased.[1] No one else was present. B.D. estimated that she consumed 10 or 11 shots of rum. After about two hours of drinking, Stempfley and Smith began kissing on the bed. B.D. remained on the other side of the bed and texted on her phone. B.D. eventually moved to the futon. Later, when Stempfley and Smith had stopped kissing and B.D. felt tired, B.D. returned to the bed to lie down.

         Accounts conflict, even among the State's witnesses, about what happened next. B.D. testified at trial to the following. Smith got on top of her and began kissing her, pulled her pants down, and engaged in oral sex. B.D. told Smith, "[Y]ou need to stop. This is weird." She testified that while this occurred, Stempfley was lying next to them on the bed. At some point, B.D. testified, Stempfley held one or both of her hands and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. B.D. testified that Stempfley's arms were over her; he was "holding one hand"; and that she was "weirded out, " "was trying to get them off [her], " and "was trying to grab [her] clothes." According to B.D., while Stempfley continued to hold her hand, Smith penetrated B.D.'s vagina with her tongue. B.D. testified that she was scared.

         On cross-examination, B.D. admitted telling a friend that she did not "remember much of what happened." She also testified that she did not remember how her clothes were removed and that it was "possible" that she had removed them herself. The State also entered into evidence at trial a recording of a statement that B.D. gave to the Cass County Sheriff's Office shortly after the assault. In that statement, B.D. said that she got on the bed to lie down. She blacked out, and when she awoke, Stempfley was holding her hands down while Smith was "going down" on her. She stated that Smith then held her hands while Stempfley digitally penetrated her.

         Smith testified for the State at Stempfley's trial.[2] Her account differed from B.D.'s. According to Smith, when she and B.D. started kissing, B.D. was not wearing a shirt; then B.D. took off her own pants and eventually all of her clothes. B.D. kissed Smith as well and did not resist or say no. Stempfley was on the bed next to them, and while Smith engaged in oral sex with B.D., Smith "asked him to grab [B.D's] arms and he did." When asked why she wanted Stempfley to hold B.D.'s arms, Smith replied, "I don't know." She testified that, other than holding her arms, Stempfley did not touch B.D., and that neither Smith nor Stempfley used force against B.D.

         During cross-examination, defense counsel used a statement that Smith had given to the Sheriff's Office to impeach her testimony. In that statement, Smith said that Stempfley did not hold B.D.'s arms. When asked at trial to explain the discrepancy between her prior statement and her trial testimony, Smith testified that her earlier statement was intended to protect Stempfley, who was her boyfriend at the time.

         Stempfley did not testify at the trial, but he did give a recorded statement to the Sheriff's Office three days after the events at the cabin, which the State entered into evidence and played for the jury at trial. He told investigators that when Smith and B.D. started kissing, he rolled over to the other side of the bed and watched television. Stempfley also stated that he was uncomfortable with having B.D. at the cabin because she had told him and Smith that she was 15 years old.

         B.D. and Smith both testified that the three eventually fell asleep on the bed. The next day, B.D. was unable to find a ride home until early afternoon, so she spent the morning with Smith and Stempfley. B.D. testified that Stempfley said to her, "Oh, wow! That was a crazy night. That was so fun."

         Two days later, B.D. went to school. She used a phone in the school's office to call her mother, and a school employee overheard her describing the assault. The employee reported the incident, which led to criminal charges against Stempfley and Smith.

         Stempfley was charged with five counts: (1) third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b) (2016) ("sexual penetration with another person . . . [who] is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 24 months older than the complainant"); (2) fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(b) (2016) ("sexual contact with another person . . . [who] is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant"); (3) furnishing alcohol to a person under 21 years old, Minn. Stat. § 340A.503, subd. 2(1) (2016); (4) aiding and abetting third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b); see Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subd. 1 (2016) ("intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime"); and (5) aiding and abetting fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. §§ 609.05, subd. 1, 609.345, subd. 1(b). Stempfley pleaded not guilty to all charges.

         The jury acquitted Stempfley of counts 1 and 2, committing criminal sexual conduct as a principal, but found him guilty of counts 4 and 5, third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct as an accomplice. The jury also found Stempfley guilty of furnishing alcohol to a minor. [3]

         By finding Stempfley not guilty of criminal sexual conduct as a principal, the jury necessarily found that Stempfley did not engage in either sexual penetration or sexual contact with B.D. See Minn. Stat. §§ 609.341, subds. 11, 12 (2016) (defining "sexual contact" and "sexual penetration"); 609.344, subd. 1(b) (defining third-degree criminal sexual conduct), 609.345, subd. 1(b) (defining fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct). By finding Stempfley guilty of aiding and abetting Smith's acts of sexual penetration and sexual contact, the jury found that he played an "intentional role in aiding" the commission of these crimes and made "no reasonable effort" to prevent them.[4]

         Based on Stempfley's criminal history score of six, the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report recommended an executed sentence of 140 months-the presumptive duration- for third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Minn. Sent. Guidelines 4.B. Stempfley's counsel argued, and the State agreed, that the third- and fourth-degree convictions arose out of a single behavioral incident. The State accordingly requested that the court sentence Stempfley for third-degree criminal sexual conduct and sought an executed sentence of 168 months, the upper limit of the presumptive sentencing range. Id.

         Stempfley's counsel moved for a downward dispositional departure, [5] arguing that Stempfley played a "minor or passive role" in the crimes and that he "is particularly amenable to probation as shown by his criminal record wherein he has not accumulated significant new crimes for several years."[6] At the sentencing hearing, Stempfley's counsel argued that Stempfley's role was minor or passive because "Tina Smith was already doing her act, " and, in only holding B.D.'s hand, Stempfley's conduct ...


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