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Moton v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

May 5, 2015

MOTON
v.
THE STATE

Contempt. DeKalb State Court. Before Judge Lopez.

The McReynolds Law Firm, Jule McReynolds, Jr., for appellant.

Sherry Boston, Solicitor-General, Wystan Getz, Samantha J. Newman, Assistant Solicitors-General, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 394

Dillard, Judge.

Following a hearing, a trial court found Earl M. Moton, Sr., guilty of criminal contempt. On appeal, Moton contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

At the outset, we note that, as with any criminal conviction, " the evidence in any criminal contempt case must show that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." [1] Indeed, criminal contempt is a crime in the ordinary sense; " it is a violation of the law, a public wrong which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both." [2] And

Page 395

on appeal of a criminal-contempt conviction, the appropriate standard of appellate review is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, " any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." [3]

So viewed, the record shows that on April 3, 2014, Moton was at the DeKalb County courthouse to testify as a character witness for his son, Earl Moton II, who was being tried on charges that he committed an act of public indecency at a local library. Specifically, the evidence in that case showed that a library patron saw the younger Moton expose his penis and begin masturbating while he was watching the patron's ten-year-old daughter, who was sitting at a nearby desk using one of the library's computers. Immediately, the patron, her close family friend, and one of the librarians confronted the younger Moton, who admitted adjusting himself but denied any criminal intent.

Toward the end of the trial, but before the evidence was closed, the library patron, her family friend, and three of the librarians were sitting in the hallway outside of the courtroom when a visibly upset Moton began pacing back and forth while loudly exclaiming that he hoped God would make the children and grandchildren of those who lied about his son suffer in the same way his son was currently suffering. The same witnesses also heard Moton angrily refer to the [332 Ga.App. 301] patron's daughter, stating that no one " wants that" and that nobody even " knew whether it was a boy or a girl" because she was " all covered up." [4] In addition, Moton further complained that he had donated money to that branch of the library but, yet, was not called by library staff on the day of his son's alleged indiscretion.

Subsequently, the witnesses reported Moton's behavior to the State's solicitor-general, who then informed the trial court. And after hearing a brief account of Moton's statements from three of the witnesses, the trial court explained to Moton that it would hold a hearing to determine if he was guilty of criminal contempt. Later that same day, the trial court issued a rule nisi, informing Moton that he was being charged with criminal contempt for " threatening and otherwise intimidating witnesses for the State outside of the presence of the Court." In addition, the order directed Moton to appear for an evidentiary hearing to adjudicate the issue.

As noticed, on April 14, 2014, the trial court held a criminal-contempt hearing, in which the library patron, her family friend, and the three librarians testified regarding Moton's comments in the hallway outside of the courtroom on the day of his son's trial. Moton did not testify, but several witnesses--who had also testified as character witnesses for his son--claimed that he was only loudly praying outside of the courtroom. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found that Moton's actions were a danger to the orderly administration of justice and, thus, that he was guilty of criminal contempt. This appeal follows.

In his sole enumeration of error, Moton contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his criminal-contempt conviction because he violated no statute or court ...


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