By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Attorneys argue before Ga. Supreme Court on aggravated child molestation case

The attorney for man facing a life sentence argued before the Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday, May 8 his client’s impregnation of a 14-year-old girl does not fall under the statute for aggravated child molestation.

"For an ordinary speaker of English, the phrase 'physically injures' simply does not call to mind the conception of new life," attorney Matt Leipold said to the justices in Atlanta.

Lawrence Daddario, 49, of Flowery Branch, was sentenced to life in prison on charges of aggravated child molestation and second-degree child cruelty. He is appealing his conviction to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The justices will likely issue an opinion in the coming months.

“Due to the seriousness of the charges and the evidence presented, (Superior Court) Judge Andrew Fuller sentenced the defendant to a life sentence plus 20 years in prison,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh wrote in an email at the time.

According to the indictment, Daddario in November 2014 isolated three children under the age of 18 and “made them beg for money and food.”

The aggravated child molestation charge is related to his impregnating a girl younger than 16 and causing her to “endure childbirth,” according to the indictment.

"The intermediate cause of that was impregnating the child, in the same way that the intermediate cause of a bullet I shoot at your head hitting you in the head may be my assault and aggravated assault before there's a murder,” Justice David Nahmias said.

Leipold disagreed with these analogies, arguing that pregnancy and childbirth were different.

Daddario was found guilty after a four-day trial in Fuller’s court, with Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance trying the case.

During oral arguments, Vance said the case came under law enforcement’s attention when the pregnant 14-year-old appeared at a crisis pregnancy center.

Both Leipold and Vance referenced Daddario talking the girl out of getting an abortion.

Fuller sentenced Daddario to life in prison for aggravated child molestation and 10 years each for two second-degree child cruelty cases.

Before the trial, Daddario’s attorneys argued the pregnancy did not fall under the statutory definition of aggravated child molestation and filed for dismissal.

According to the Georgia code, aggravated child molestation is defined as a person commiting “an offense of child molestation which act physically injures the child or involves an act of sodomy.”

A 2015 Georgia Court of Appeals case, Kendrick v. State, had ruled on a similar question regarding “physical injury” and pregnancy.

“It is axiomatic that a full-term pregnancy involves at least some impairment of physical condition, and furthermore, there was evidence in this case that the victim experienced pain during the two-day labor and delivery process. So by the above definitions, the record supports a finding of a physical injury to the victim caused by the molestation,” the Court of Appeals ruled in the Kendrick case.

While Vance said the district attorney’s office believed the Kendrick decision was “good law,” the prosecutor added the court did not have to base its judgment in this case on Kendrick.

"This court doesn't have to decide Kendrick. If Kendrick had never existed ... the state is arguing that under a fair reading of aggravated child molestation and the facts in this case, our indictment would still have withstood a special demurrer, and the jury still would have been entitled to convict based on the facts in this case,” Vance said.

Regional events