Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Top Legal News / Sex offender’s kidnapping conviction vacated

Sex offender’s kidnapping conviction vacated

Case divided the NC Court of Appeals

A divided North Carolina Court of Appeals has vacated a sex offender’s kidnapping conviction, because the victim was restrained while being raped and assaulted.

Nathaniel China was convicted of a slew of charges, including first-degree sex offense and second-degree kidnapping, after he allegedly kicked down the door of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and beat and raped her new boyfriend.

China, who had been released from prison shortly before he committed the brutal attack, argued on appeal that the trial judge should have dismissed the kidnapping charge because prosecutors could not prove that offense was separate from the assault and rape.

Two members of a three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals agreed with China, finding in a Feb. 21 decision that “there is no evidence in the record suggesting that [the victim] was ‘restrained’ beyond the degree of restraint required to overpower [him] and assault him.”

Judge Valerie Zachary, who wrote the majority opinion, added as an example that China did not tie up the victim. She also noted that the assault was over within a few minutes, when the victim fled the apartment.

China’s appellate attorney, Richard Croutharmel of Raleigh, said the majority correctly applied the law to the facts of the case.

“There’s longstanding law that says there’s inherent in a lot of crimes the general restraint of the victim, including assault,” he said. “Our Supreme Court has interpreted that the legislature did not intend for someone to be prosecuted for two different crimes based on the same act, the same restraint. It’s violative of double jeopardy.”

A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office did not answer an inquiry about whether prosecutors would challenge the decision.

According to the opinion, China punched the victim after he kicked down the apartment door then subjected him to a “brief, brutal sexual attack” before dragging him off the bed by his ankles. As the victim lay on the floor, China and an accomplice kicked him repeatedly.

In his dissent, Judge Chris Dillon contended that the kidnapping conviction should have been upheld because China restrained the victim after the sex assault, when he prevented him from getting up off the floor during the beating.

He wrote that the “restraint which occurred while the victim was on the floor was not inherent to the sexual assault which was completed while the victim was on the bed. The restraint was a separate act. Therefore, the jury’s verdict should not be disturbed.”

The majority’s decision shaves about 10 years off China’s sentence. But he’ll still have to serve 41 to 56 years in prison — a fact that Zachary noted in the decision.

George Laughrun, a criminal defense lawyer at Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Greene in Charlotte who reviewed the opinion at Lawyers Weekly’s request, disagreed with the majority’s finding. He believed that the decision, should it stand, would raise the standard for proving kidnapping.

“Even if you take at face value that the defendant assaulted [the victim] pretty quickly, the slightest restraint is enough for kidnapping,” he said.

But while Dillon argued that the kidnapping occurred when the victim was restrained on the floor, Laughrun asserted that it took place when China dragged the victim from the bed to the floor.

“If you take somebody from Point A to Point B, that’s the kidnapping part,” he said.

The 14-page decision is State v. China (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-057-17). A digest of the opinion is available at nclawyersweekly.com.

Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @NCLWBantz

 

 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*