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U.S. v. FAULLS, NO. 14-4595

Decided: May 5, 2016

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

Thomas Faulls separated from his wife in June 2012. Following this separation, there were several violent episodes between them. The final of these episodes resulted in the convictions that lead to this appeal. In August 2012, Faulls tied up his wife, put her in his truck next to his shotgun, and took her to a hotel in West Virginia. He sought to have sex with her and she acquiesced out of fear. That same evening, his wife fled and managed to contact the police. Faulls was later arrested. After a trial, a jury convicted Faulls of kidnapping, interstate domestic violence, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. The jury also determined that Faulls committed aggravated sexual abuse that served as the predicate crime of violence for the interstate domestic violence charge and also enhanced Faull’s sentencing range. This appeal followed.

On appeal, Faulls contends that his counsel was ineffective in opening the door to testimony by a government expert, and in failing to object to the district court’s decision to keep the jury late one evening. He also contends that the district court erred in admitting prior acts evidence and in requiring him to register as a sex-offender. The Court declined to reach Faulls’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim because there was no conclusive evidence on the face of the record indicating the attorney’s ineffectiveness. The Court also found that the prior act evidence was relevant, demonstrated control and domination and its probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court’s decision to admit prior acts evidence. Finally, the Court determined that aggravated sexual abuse involves a sexual act or sexual contact with another. Faulls was convicted of a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another – a sex offense. Therefore, the Court held that the district court did not err in requiring Faulls to register as a sex offender.

Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Full Opinion

Michael W. Rabb