Men found guilty in manslaughter, enticement cases
Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Thirty-nine-year-old Roderick Elliot Smith was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter Tuesday, in connection with the March 2011 stabbing death of 31-year-old Trevis Ramonte Clemons, Disrict Attorney Joe Mulholland said. Also Tuesday, 50-year-old Robin Dale Heard of Bainbridge was found guilty of making a criminal attempt to entice a child for indecent purposes.
Judge drops murder charge, convicts Smith of voluntary manslaughter
Smith, who was accused of stabbing Clemons with a kitchen knife during an argument at a private game room, had been facing charges of felony murder, voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, according to Mulholland.
However, after completing his review of the evidence, Superior Court Chief Judge A. Wallace Cato found Smith not guilty of felony murder, and instead found him only guilty of the slightly lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, Mulholland said.
Georgia law defines voluntary manslaughter as causing the death of another person “as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person.” However, the law states that if enough time elapses between the provocation and the killing during which the voice of reason could prevail, the assailant could be found guilty of murder.
In Smith’s case, the prosecution and defense had separate accounts of the timeline concerning when Smith and Clemons argued, Smith left the premises and then returned with the knife, and whether or not he intended to use the knife for cooking. The varying accounts may have factored into the judge’s decision to find Smith guilty of the lesser charge, Mulholland said.
Cato, who oversaw both the trial’s verdict and penalty since it was a bench trial, sentenced Smith to serve 20 years in the state prison system.
The bench trial was held over a period of approximately two days last week, with Cato taking a few days to review the evidence, before rendering a verdict, Mulholland said.
Heard found guilty of enticing a child
Heard was found guilty of making a criminal attempt to entice a child for indecent purposes, in a bench trial that ended on Tuesday afternoon, Mulholland said.
Superior Court Judge J. Kevin Chason, who presided over the bench trial, sentenced Heard to a 15-year sentence, with five years to serve in the state prison system. Heard will also have to register as a sex offender.
Mulholland said that Heard was found guilty of using his cell phone to send inappropriate text messages to a 12-year-old girl, asking her for graphic sexual images.
“We were able to convince the judge that there had been similar incidences in the past where Heard had sent inappropriate text messages to other women,” Mulholland said.
There are several Georgia laws dealing with the type of allegations in Heard’s case. “Enticing a child for indecent purposes” is when a person “solicits, entices, or takes any child under the age of 16 years to any place whatsoever for the purpose of child molestation or indecent acts.”
Persons convicted of enticing a child for indecent purposes can receive a sentence between 10 and 30 years. For the lesser charge of criminal attempt to entice a child for indecent purposes, the sentence is between five to 15 years. In the latter, prosecutors do not need to show that a defendant actually succeeded in the illicit behavior, merely that they attempted to engage in it, Mulholland said.
Sexual exploitation of a child, which was not charged in this case, is defined as possessing, distributing or creating “any material which depicts a minor or a portion of a minor’s body engaged in any sexually explicit conduct.” That charges carries a sentence of between five and 20 years and a fine of $100,000.
“The sentences are definitely tough, but they should send a cautionary message to anyone in our society that would seek to harm children,” Mulholland said. “One thing, that our local law enforcement is greatly committed to, is ensuring the safety of the children in our community.”