State v. Groat, COA23-703, ___ N.C. App. ___ (May. 7, 2024)

In this Jackson County case, defendant appealed his convictions for attempted first-degree kidnapping and additional sexual offenses with two minors, arguing error in (1) joining his attempted kidnapping charge with the sexual offenses for trial, and (2) denying his motion to dismiss the attempted kidnapping charge. The Court of Appeals determined that defendant waived (1) and found no error in (2). 

In 2011, defendant began dating the mother of his two sexual assault victims. Over the next few years, defendant sexually assaulted both children, getting one of them pregnant. Eventually, defendant was arrested for the abuse, and during his pretrial release, he was restricted from contacting any minor under sixteen, and was ordered to reside with his parents in Michigan. Defendant violated these terms by contacting one of the victims; police told the victim to set up a meeting between them in Sylva, NC. Defendant was subsequently arrested at this meeting with duct tape, pepper spray, a firearm, and cable ties. Before defendant came to trial, he moved to sever the attempted kidnapping charge from the sexual abuse charges, but the trial court denied the motion. Defendant did not renew the motion at trial. 

Taking up (1), the Court of Appeals explained that defendant waived his argument by failing to renew his motion to sever at trial. The court noted G.S. 15A-927 and State v. Silva, 304 N.C. 122 (1981), as support for this conclusion, while dismissing the conflicting precedent in State v. Wood, 185 N.C. App. 227 (2007), with the explanation that it “cannot overrule our state’s highest court.” Slip Op. at 6. Moving to (2), the court noted the substantial evidence supporting the attempted kidnapping charge, including the circumstances around defendant’s arrest, defendant’s own statements, and the supplies and preparations he made for the attempted kidnapping.