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United States v. Oldrock

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 14, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Jade Shilo Oldrock Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: May 12, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Fargo

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, Chief Judge.

         Jade Shilo Oldrock was convicted of the aggravated sexual abuse of a child and committing a felony sex offense as a registered sex offender, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153, 2241(c), 2247, 3559(e), and § 2260A. The district court[1] sentenced Oldrock to the statutory mandatory minimum sentence for each offense, which amounted to a total of 40 years' imprisonment. Oldrock appeals his conviction, claiming that the district court abused its discretion by admitting unduly prejudicial testimony from two witnesses at trial and by denying his motion for mistrial. We affirm.

         I. Background

         H.L., a minor, stayed up late watching a movie at her home in Fort Totten, North Dakota. She fell asleep on the couch. Oldrock, H.L.'s relative, was homeless at the time and intermittently sleeping over at the family residence. H.L. awoke in the night to find her blue jeans unzipped and Oldrock lying next to her using his hand to reach inside her underwear and touch her genitals. She got up and rushed upstairs to her bedroom. H.L. attempted to barricade her bedroom door with books and "anything else [she] could find" because the lock was broken. H.L. changed into loose-fitting trunks and a tank top and "bundled [herself] up in a blanket." She eventually fell back asleep.

         H.L. awoke once again. Oldrock had gained entry to her bedroom and was sitting on her bed with his hand underneath her trunks. She sat up, and Oldrock got off the bed. He immediately went to a box of old phones on the night stand and began asking H.L. about them. H.L. sat in silence until Oldrock left the room. When she heard what sounded like Oldrock exit the front door, H.L. "waited to make sure he was gone." She then left the house and walked to her older sister's home-where she ordinarily got ready for school in the morning. H.L. quietly entered her nieces and nephews' bedroom and crawled into bed.

         About four months later, H.L. told her older sister about Oldrock's actions. The two sisters notified their father, and the three of them went to the police station to make a report. Per protocol, law enforcement arranged for H.L. to be interviewed at the Red River Children's Advocacy Center (RRCAC) in Fargo, North Dakota. Jill Perez, the program coordinator and a forensic interviewer for RRCAC, interviewed H.L. The facts developed in this interview led to Oldrock's indictment. Investigators interviewed another minor, T.O., about an unrelated incident. During this interview, T.O. described a similar encounter with Oldrock. One night while staying at Oldrock's home, T.O. awakened to Oldrock's hand underneath her pajamas, touching her genitals.

         Oldrock moved to exclude the testimony of T.O. and Perez. The district court denied Oldrock's motion as to T.O., subject to a judicial relevance finding, and granted Oldrock's motion as to Perez, except "as to whether or not the techniques used [in the interview] were consistent with her training." At trial, T.O. and Perez generally testified within these parameters. On direct examination, however, the government elicited one response from Perez that went beyond the district court's limitations:

The recommendations that we had for [H.L.] that day were trauma counseling, no contact with Jade Shilo Oldrock, and a medical examination.

         Defense counsel immediately moved to strike this statement, and the court granted the motion, instructing the jury to disregard the answer. Defense counsel subsequently moved for a mistrial based on this statement, which the court denied. After three days of trial, the jury convicted Oldrock.

         II. Discussion

         On appeal, Oldrock argues that the district court abused its discretion by admitting unduly prejudicial testimony from T.O. and Perez and for denying his motion ...


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