BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and REESE, JJ.
found Kenneth Blackwell guilty of aggravated child
molestation, aggravated sexual battery, and statutory
rape. The trial court sentenced Blackwell to
life plus 20 years' imprisonment. Blackwell appeals from
the denial of his amended motion for new trial, arguing,
inter alia, that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing
to object to the improper admission of child hearsay
evidence. For the reasons set forth, infra, we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict,
evidence presented at trial showed the following facts. In
2006, when the victim, K. S. was about seven years old,
Blackwell began dating K. S.'s mother. At the time, K. S.
and her family lived in Ohio. According to K. S., Blackwell
"started to touch" her around that time, using his
fingers to touch her breasts and her vagina. Two or three
years later, when K. S. was nine or ten years old, Blackwell
began having sexual intercourse with her.
2010, when K. S. was ten or eleven years old, her family and
Blackwell moved to Gwinnett County, where the sexual
intercourse and fondling continued. In addition, Blackwell
began to force her to perform oral sex on him. According to
K. S., the sexual abuse happened "[a] lot, " but
she did not tell her mother because she thought her mother
would not believe her.
in July 2012, when K. S. was 13 years old, Blackwell
impregnated her, and she had to undergo a second-trimester
abortion. According to K. S., she did not tell her mother
that Blackwell was the man who had impregnated her, and her
mother did not ask her who it had been. Blackwell, however,
told K. S.'s mother that she had been raped by someone in
the neighborhood. It is undisputed that neither K. S.'s
mother nor Blackwell called the police to report the alleged
the abortion, Blackwell continued to have sexual intercourse
and oral sex with K. S. repeatedly until early May 2014, when
she was 15 years old. About two weeks after the last time
Blackwell sexually assaulted her, K. S. ran away from home
and went to a friend's house seeking a place to spend the
night. According to K. S., she ran away because she was
afraid for her own safety and that of her little sister, who
was five or six years old at the time.
friend's mother testified that K. S. told her "about
the things [Blackwell was] doing to her" and that she
had told her mother about the abuse several times, but her
mother did not believe her. The friend's mother testified
that K. S. had "told [her that] ever since she was [nine
years old, Blackwell] had been touching her and he ha[d] sex
with her and . . . made her perform oral sex on him and that
she [had become] pregnant by him . . . when she was . . . 13
or 14 - and that the child . . . was . . . aborted[.]"
The friend's mother, who was a police officer, called K.
S.'s mother, who arrived shortly thereafter, and the
Gwinnett County police officer who responded to the call,
Angelica Grissom, testified at trial that she spoke briefly
with K. S. at the friend's home. K. S. told Grissom that
started touching her when she was about [seven] years old and
that he actually started inserting his penis or penetrating
her when she was about [ten]. [K. S.] initially told
[Grissom] that in the summer of 2013 she had an abortion.
[H]er mom [told Grissom, however, ] that she paid for an
abortion in the summer of 2012. [K. S.] stated [that
Blackwell] would normally come into her bedroom late at night
when her mom was asleep. She stated that many times she was
actually asleep herself and [Blackwell would] wake her up.
[K. S. stated that the sexual abuse] happened for several
years. [T]heir last encounter was about two weeks prior to
th[e] report being filed with the police [in May 2014].
also testified that she asked K. S.'s mother if she
believed K. S.'s claims about Blackwell, and the mother
responded that she did.
Kim Riddle with the Gwinnett County Police Department's
Special Victims Unit conducted a forensic interview of K. S.
in June 2014. According to Riddle, K. S. said that the sexual
abuse in Gwinnett County started in 2010 when she was in 6th
grade and about eleven years old and that it continued
"until two or three weeks prior to the report, "
i.e., early May 2014. In fact, K. S. specifically told Riddle
that she had performed oral sex on Blackwell about two weeks
before she reported the abuse. The State played a redacted
video recording of the nearly two-hour forensic interview for
the jury. During the interview, K. S. detailed the years of
sexual abuse by Blackwell, telling Riddle that it happened
"whenever [Blackwell] wanted it."
addition to this evidence, K. S.'s younger brother, D.
S., testified that he learned about his sister's assault
after she reported it. According to D. S., she told him
"that the small period of time when [Blackwell] was
living with [them] in [Ohio, ] . . . [Blackwell] would start
feeling her and . . . she couldn't tell anybody because
he threatened to kill all of [them.] [After they moved to
Georgia, ] it started picking up more and more[, ] and
eventually she had an abortion."
State indicted Blackwell, charging him with committing the
acts of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual
battery, and statutory rape against the victim. According to
each count, Blackwell committed these acts sometime between
October 1, 2010, and May 1, 2014.
Blackwell was convicted on all three of the charged crimes,
he filed a motion for new trial. Blackwell's trial
counsel testified at the motion hearing that he did not file
a motion in limine or object to the admission of K. S.'s
out-of-court statements because he did not believe he had a
legal basis to object, given K. S.'s age when she made
the statements and the fact that she was available to testify
trial court denied the motion for new trial, ruling that K.
S.'s out-of-court statements to her friend's mother,
her brother, Grissom, and Riddle (hereinafter, "the
hearsay witnesses") were admissible under the child
hearsay statute because she was under 16 years old at the
time she made the statements. The court also ruled that the
statements were admissible as prior consistent statements.
Thus, the court concluded that counsel's failure to raise
a meritless objection did not constitute deficient
performance. Blackwell appeals.
On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the verdict and an appellant no
longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. This Court
determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the
standard of Jackson v. Virginia,  and does not
weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility. Any
conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence are for the jury
to resolve. As long as there is some competent evidence, even
though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make
out the State's case, we must uphold the jury's
standard of Jackson v. Virginia,  is met if the
evidence is sufficient for any rational trier of fact to find
the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime
In order to prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel, a criminal defendant must show that counsel's
performance was deficient and that the deficient performance
so prejudiced the client that there is a reasonable
likelihood that, but for counsel's errors, the outcome of
the trial would have been different. The criminal defendant must
overcome the strong presumption that trial counsel's
conduct falls within the broad range of reasonable
professional conduct. We accept the trial court's factual
findings and credibility determinations unless clearly
erroneous, but we independently apply the legal principles to
an appellant claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must
show both deficient performance and actual prejudice stemming
from that deficiency, an insufficient showing on either of
these prongs relieves the reviewing court of the need to
address the other prong." With these guiding ...