Intimidation - Threats Without Proof of Intent Insufficient

In McCaskill v. State, 3 N.E.3d 1047 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014), an intimidation prosecution, the State failed to prove that Rakiea McCaskill communicated a threat with the intent that the complaining witness, Tamika Matlock, engage in conduct against her will: i.e., to leave her husband and/or cause her husband to leave her. See Ind. Code § 35-45-2-1(a)(1).

McCaskill had a one-year-old child with Matlock's husband when McCaskill called Matlock four times and threatened to beat her up. She also said she was outside of Matlock's home. The Court of Appeals noted there was insufficient evidence of McCaskill's intent because she never specified the reason for her threats toward Matlock.

At trial, Matlock admitted she did not know why McCaskill wanted to beat her up. The State argued that because McCaskill and Matlock do not have a relationship other than through the husband, McCaskill's aim must have been for Matlock to leave her husband, and thus there was enough circumstantial evidence to show intent. But McCaskill had been in a relationship with the husband for several years before threatening Matlock and "it is not clear why McCaskill would suddenly start threatening Matlock with that aim."

Although intent may be proven by circumstantial evidence, the conclusion that McCaskill intended to make Matlock leave her husband was pure speculation and not a logical inference. Because the State argued at trial for the lesser-included offense of Class B misdemeanor harassment, which was supported by the evidence, the court entered judgment of conviction on that charge.

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