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State v. Truelove

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 7, 2017

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Michael Allen Truelove, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable John Charles Irby, Judge.

          Tristan J. Van de Streek (argued) and Leah J. Viste (on brief), Assistant State's Attorneys, Fargo, North Dakota, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Anna Dearth (argued), third-year law student, under the Rule on Limited Practice of Law by Law Students, and Samuel A. Gereszek (appeared), East Grand Forks, Minnesota, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          TUFTE, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Michael Truelove appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition ("GSI"), terrorizing, interfering with a telephone during an emergency call, and aggravated assault. Truelove contests only the GSI conviction. We affirm, concluding there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the GSI conviction.

         I

         [¶ 2] Truelove met HFP at Dempsey's, a bar in downtown Fargo. HFP was working as a cocktail server, and Truelove was a patron that night (although he was also employed by Dempsey's as a custodian). They had not interacted prior to that night. HFP wrote her phone number on Truelove's pizza box. Truelove left, but after they exchanged a few text messages, he decided to come back to Dempsey's to meet her. HFP's shift ended, and the two of them consumed alcohol at Dempsey's.

         [¶ 3] Toward the end of the night, HFP offered Truelove a ride home. The two of them walked to HFP's car, kissed, and drove to Truelove's apartment in South Fargo. HFP accompanied Truelove into his studio apartment. Once in the apartment, Truelove went into the bathroom, and HFP went to lie down on the mattress. After this point, the testimony of HFP and Truelove differed.

         [¶ 4] HFP testified a naked Truelove came out of the bathroom and was in "attack mode"; Truelove got on top of her; she told him to get off her and that she wanted to go to bed; he "ripped" her skirt and underwear off her; he ripped her shirt open, exposing her breasts; he grabbed her breasts; she felt his penis up against her vagina; he choked her; she called 911 and yelled to the operator for help; he "ripped" the phone from her hand and threw it aside; he told her that she "wasn't going to leave there alive"; he ripped out a chunk of her hair; and when she unlocked the door, the police officers pulled him off of her.

         [¶ 5] Truelove testified the lights were off when he exited the bathroom; he took his clothes off once he left the bathroom and saw her on his mattress looking at him; he lay down next to her and began kissing her; he pulled her skirt and underwear down; he went to insert his penis, but after she told him no, he stopped; he resumed kissing her and went to take her shirt off, but she got defensive and kicked him in the chin; he slapped her and a scuffle ensued, with both of them having their hair pulled out. He also testified that he didn't intentionally choke her, but did put her in an arm bar to prevent her from running out of the apartment naked. HFP got free, unlocked the door, and exited the apartment.

         [¶ 6] At trial, a jury found Truelove guilty of GSI, terrorizing, interfering with a telephone during an emergency call, and aggravated assault.

         II

         [¶ 7] Truelove argues there was insufficient evidence to sustain his GSI conviction. In reviewing sufficiency of the evidence challenges, we review the record to determine whether there is sufficient evidence that could allow a jury to draw a reasonable inference in favor of the conviction. State v. Kinsella, 2011 ND 88, ¶ 7, 796 N.W.2d 678 (quoting State v. Wanner, 2010 ND 121, ¶ 9, 784 N.W.2d 143). "The defendant bears the burden of showing the evidence reveals no reasonable inference of guilt when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict." Id. We do not reweigh conflicting evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses. Id.

         [¶ 8] Truelove was found guilty of GSI under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03, ...


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