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Bettey v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

April 18, 2018

Leo C. Bettey Jr., Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Clay County. John H. Skinner, Judge.

          Leo C. Bettey Jr., pro se, Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          B.L. THOMAS, C.J.

         Appellant appeals the summary denial of his motion for postconviction relief filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850. We affirm the order denying relief for the reasons discussed below.

         Following a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of four counts of capital sexual battery on a person under the age of 12 for specific sexual acts on M.B. and J.B., and was sentenced to concurrent terms of life in prison. This court affirmed his convictions and sentences, without opinion. Bettey v. State, 136 So.3d 1216 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014).

         Appellant filed a postconviction motion arguing that he should have been tried by twelve jurors instead of six. The trial court denied the motion, and this court dismissed that appeal.[1]

         Appellant next filed a timely motion for postconviction relief alleging four claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.[2] A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is governed by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690 (1984). To prove ineffective assistance, an appellant must allege 1) the specific acts or omissions of counsel which fell below a standard of reasonableness under prevailing professional norms, see id. at 690; and 2) that the appellant's case was prejudiced by these acts or omissions such that the outcome of the case would have been different, see id. at 694. To prove the first prong, "[t]he defendant must allege specific facts that, when considering the totality of the circumstances, are not conclusively rebutted by the record and that demonstrate a deficiency on the part of counsel which is detrimental to the defendant." Blackwood v. State, 946 So.2d 960, 968 (Fla. 2006) (citing LeCroy v. Dugger, 727 So.2d 236, 239 (Fla. 1998)). The prejudice prong requires that Appellant demonstrate a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. Appellant must demonstrate a likelihood of a different result which is substantial and not just conceivable. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 112 (2011).

         In ground one, Appellant alleged that counsel was ineffective for failing to secure a ruling on a motion for a statement of particulars that sought to narrow the time frame during which the alleged offenses occurred. The information alleged that the three offenses against M.B. occurred between April 1, 2010 and April 10, 2012, while the offense against J.B. was alleged to have taken place between December 11, 2011 and April 9, 2012. Appellant alleged that if counsel had secured a ruling on the motion for a statement of particulars, and had the time frame shortened in the information, the State would not have been able to prove that the crimes occurred during that time frame. Thus, Appellant argues, he would have been entitled to be discharged, because "[w]hen a bill of particulars narrows the time within which the crime occurred, and the prosecution fails to show the defendant committed the offense within that time frame, a conviction on the charge must be reversed." Audano v. State, 674 So.2d 882 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996) (citing State v. Jefferson, 419 So.2d 330, 331-32 (Fla. 1982)).

         At trial in March 2013, M.B. testified that she was eight years old and that the abuse started when she was three. The State also introduced a video of the victims' interviews with a Child Protective Team member that occurred on April 12, 2012. In the interview, M.B. stated that the abuse started when she was five and continued until shortly before the interview. J.B. testified at trial that she was six years old, and that the abuse began when she was five years old; in her interview with the Child Protective Team member, J.B. stated she was five years old and she was not sure when the abuse started, but she was probably four years old.

         Thus, the testimony indicates that the victims could not provide exact dates, but could only provide how old they were at the time, therefore, the State would not have been able to produce a statement of particulars. But contrary to Appellant's arguments, this would not have led to an acquittal or dismissal of the charges, as the State may charge a date range, and need not specify exact dates if they are not known. See Lightbourne v. State, 438 So.2d 380, 384 (Fla. 1983). The two-year date ranges alleged by the State were proper. Id. ("[I]t is not necessary that an indictment or information state the exact date of the offense if such date is not known."). Because the State could not narrow the time frame, and Appellant was not hindered in his ability to raise a defense, his claim fails. Cf. Dell'Orfano v. State, 616 So.2d 33 (Fla. 1993) (noting that 27-month time frame is not per se objectionable in a sexual-battery case). Thus, Appellant cannot show that he was prejudiced by counsel's failure to secure a ruling on his motion for a statement of particulars.

         In ground two, Appellant alleged that counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a judgment of acquittal, because the State failed to prove that the crimes occurred during the range of the dates alleged in the information. This claim is meritless as well. The evidence was sufficient to show that M.B.'s abuse occurred between April 1, 2010 (when she would have been five years old) and April 12, 2012. Further, the evidence indicated the abuse to J.B. occurred when she was five years old, a period of time encompassed in the December 11, 2011 to April 2012 date range.

         Finally, even if the State failed to prove the crimes occurred during the dates alleged, Appellant would not be entitled to relief. In order to overcome a motion for judgment of acquittal, the State must put forth evidence of each element of the crime. See K.S. v. State, 840 So.2d 1116 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003). The State was not required to prove that the crime took place on the exact dates listed in the information, as that is not an element of the offense. In Tingley v. State, 549 So.2d 649, ...


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