MCFADDEN, C. J., MCMILLIAN, P. J., and SENIOR APPELLATE JUDGE
MCFADDEN, CHIEF JUDGE.
Aubrey Pinkston appeals from his convictions on two counts of
child molestation. He challenges the admission of his
statements to law enforcement officers, in which he admitted
to touching the vaginal area of one of the two victims, but
we find no merit in his assertion that the statements were
involuntary. He argues that the trial court should have
charged the jury on his defense of accident even though he
did not request that charge or object to its absense, but we
find no plain error. And he argues that his trial counsel was
ineffective for withdrawing a requested jury charge on good
character, but he has not shown that he was prejudiced by
this claimed deficiency. So we affirm.
in the light most favorable to the verdict, the trial
evidence showed that Pinkston, a minister, repeatedly
molested two young girls whose families attended his church.
On several occasions at the church, Pinkston touched the
vaginal area of E. M. while she was sitting on his lap. In
those instances, he touched and sometimes rubbed E. M.
beneath her clothing. E. M. was between four and six years
old at the time. Pinkston also touched the vaginal area of S.
C. on several occasions while she was sitting on his lap. In
those instances, Pinkston touched S. C. above her clothing.
S. C. was between four years old and elementary-school age at
M. and S. C. made outcries about the touching. E. M.'s
parents contacted law enforcement, which ultimately led to
Pinkston's arrest. S. C.'s mother misunderstood the
nature of the outcry and did not contact law enforcement at
that time. But years later S. C. made a second outcry after
learning of Pinkston's arrest in connection with his acts
against E. M., and at that point law enforcement was
notified. Both girls gave forensic interviews to law
enforcement that were played for the jury, and both girls
testified at trial about Pinkston's acts.
Pinkston's statements to law enforcement
his arrest, Pinkston made statements to law enforcement
officers in which he admitted touching E. M.'s vaginal
area beneath her clothing for approximately 15 seconds on a
single occasion. In one of those statements, Pinkston
described the incident as a stupid mistake and stated that he
was surprised E. M. remembered it. Pinkston sought to exclude
evidence of the statements, but the trial court ruled that
they were admissible and at trial the state introduced both
recordings of the statements and testimony about them.
Pinkston argues that this ruling was error because his
admissions in the statements that he touched E. M. were not
voluntary. We review the ruling de novo, because the facts
pertaining to Pinkston's admissions are depicted on a
video recording and are not in dispute. See Dozier v.
State, 306 Ga. 29, 33 (4) (829 S.E.2d 131) (2019);
Stallings v. State, 343 Ga.App. 135, 141-142 (2)
(806 S.E.2d 613) (2017). Applying that standard of review, we
find no error.
make a confession admissible, it shall have been made
voluntarily, without being induced by another by the
slightest hope of benefit or remotest fear of injury."
OCGA § 24-8-824. The "'slightest hope of
benefit' refers to promises related to reduced
criminal punishment - a shorter sentence, lesser charges, or
no charges at all." Budhani v. State, ____ Ga.
___, ___ (2) (b) (830 S.E.2d 195) (2019) (citations and
punctuation omitted; emphasis supplied). Pinkston argues that
he received the slightest hope of benefit because the law
enforcement officers who interviewed him introduced the idea
of counseling as an alternative to incarceration. But the
recordings of those interviews show that the officers made
Pinkston no promises regarding counseling or any other aspect
of his potential prosecution or punishment. To the contrary,
immediately before Pinkston admitted to touching E. M., one
of the officers explicitly stated that he could not make
Pinkston any promises about counseling. In a follow-up
interview, after being told by an officer that he could go to
jail, Pinkston again admitted that he touched E. M.
points us to a decision, Starr v. State, 269 Ga.App.
466 (604 S.E.2d 297) (2004), overruled in part on other
grounds by Hatley v. State, 290 Ga. 480, 483 (I)
(722 S.E.2d 67) (2012), in which a confession of child
molestation was improperly induced by hope of benefit in the
form of counseling. But the facts in that case are plainly
distinguishable; in their discussion of counseling, the
officer in Starr told the defendant: "We're
concerned about if this happened making sure it doesn't
happen[ ] anymore. And that's not by locking you up for
the rest of your life because it isn't going to happen, I
guarantee you that." Starr, 269 Ga.App. at 469
(2) (b). Here, the recordings of Pinkston's interviews
make clear that he was offered no promise that his punishment
would be reduced. "[H]e was, therefore, not offered an
improper benefit under OCGA § 24-8-824." Huff
v. State, 299 Ga. 801, 804 (2) (792 S.E.2d 368) (2016).
Jury charge on accident.
argues that the trial court erred in failing to charge the
jury on accident, which he argues was his sole defense
against the charge that he molested E. M. "A person
shall not be found guilty of any crime committed by
misfortune or accident where it satisfactorily appears there
was no criminal scheme or undertaking, intention, or criminal
negligence." OCGA § 16-2-2. Pinkston asserts that
he was entitled to a charge on this principle because he
lacked the necessary criminal intent to commit child
molestation, arguing that he reflexively touched E. M.'s
vaginal area while pushing the girl away as she tried to
climb on him and painfully aggravated the site of a recent
Pinkston did not request a charge on accident or object to
the trial court's failure to give such a charge, we
review his claim under the plain error doctrine. See OCGA
§ 17-8-58 (b); State v. Alvarez, 299 Ga. 213,
214 (1) (790 S.E.2d 66) (2016). Under that doctrine,
the proper inquiry is whether the failure to give the
instruction was erroneous, whether it was obviously so, and
whether it likely affected the outcome of the proceedings. If
all three of these questions are answered in the affirmative,
the appellate court has the discretion to reverse if the
error seriously ...