State v. Pierce, 238 N.C. App. 537 (Dec. 31, 2014)

In this child sexual abuse case, the trial court properly admitted 404(b) evidence from several witnesses. As to two of the witnesses, the defendant argued that the incidents they described were too remote and insufficiently similar. The court concluded that although the sexual abuse of these witnesses occurred 10-20 years prior to trial, the lapses of time between the instances of sexual misconduct involving the witnesses and the victims can be explained by the defendant's incarceration and lack of access to a victim. Furthermore, there are several similarities between what happened to the witnesses and what happened to the victims: each victim was a minor female who was either the daughter or the niece of the defendant's spouse or live-in girlfriend; the abuse frequently occurred at the defendant's residence, at night, and while others slept nearby; and the defendant threatened each victim not to tell anyone. When considered as a whole, the testimony shows that the defendant engaged in a pattern of conduct of sexual abuse over a long period of time and the evidence meets Rule 404(b)’s requirements of similarity and temporal proximity. Testimony by a third witness was properly admitted under Rule 404(b) where it “involved substantially similar acts by defendant against the same victim and within the same time period.” The trial court also performed the proper Rule 403 balancing and gave a proper limiting instruction to the jury.