The Richmond Register

May 7, 2013

Ky. court upholds ruling in sex-abuse case

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

MADISON COUNTY — A former Berea man convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old relative while she stayed at his home lost his appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Mark Stinson, who was 37 at the time, entered an Alford plea to first-degree sexual abuse in 2010 in Madison Circuit Court. However, he retained his right to appeal certain elements of the case to higher courts.

Judge Jean C. Logue sentenced Stinson to one year in prison and five years conditional release. He also is required to register as a sex offender for 10 years after his release.

Stinson now lives in Ashland, according to the Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry.

Stinson admitted he engaged in “consensual” sexual contact with the girl in the summer of 2009 while she stayed at his home. The girl, who is referred to by the pseudonym “Betty” in court documents, is related to him by marriage.

A Madison County grand jury indicted Stinson on the sexual abuse charge because he was in a position of authority or special trust over the victim, as defined by state statute.

In 2008, the original sex-abuse law was amended by the state legislature to apply to victims up to 18 years old when a perpetrator is in a position of authority or special trust.

Stinson argued before the Kentucky Court of Appeals that the phrase “position of authority or special trust” was unconstitutionally vague in the sex-abuse statute.

The appellate judges disagreed, citing the statute’s inclusion of “foster parent, relative” and “household member” as people who would have authority over a minor.

The state supreme court also disagreed, stating “Clearly, (Stinson), Betty’s uncle, and the the head of the household at the time, falls within these definitions.”

Stinson also argued that “lack of consent” is an element of the crime of sex abuse, and he claimed throughout the case that the incidents with the girl were consensual.

The 2008 amendment to the sex-abuse statute, adding perpetrators in “trustful” positions, does not reference lack of consent as an element of the crime, the state supreme court said.

The law states that a person in a position of authority is able to exercise “undue influence over the minor.”

“Quite simply, a person cannot effectively consent to an activity when they have been influenced or coerced into participation by the power of the inherently trustful relationship,” the court stated.

The Kentucky Supreme Court also noted that the law defines the criminal act as when a person “in a position of undue authority or position subjects a minor who is less than 18” to sexual contact.

By using the word “subjects,” the court said it’s clear the focus of the law is on the conduct of the person in the “trustful position” rather that on whether the minor was a voluntary participant.

The Kentucky Supreme Court rendered the decision April 25. It is a published opinion, meaning the ruling can be cited as precedent in future cases of a similar nature.

Stinson can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.