High court reinstates fondling conviction

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

OXFORD – A Lafayette County man’s conviction of fondling a minor nearly in his legal care was reinstated Thursday by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The decision overruled a July 2012 decision by the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which reversed his conviction and seven-year sentence by Circuit Judge Robert W. Elliott.

In its 11-0 ruling written by Justice Ann H. Lamar of Senatobia, the state’s highest appeals court said David Campbell was a de facto parent to a 16-year-old girl it calls “Lauren” when he was observed kissing and groping her during a visit with her at Millcreek psychiatric treatment facility in Pontotoc County.

Lauren, a fictious name used by the court, moved into the home of one of her therapists and the therapist’s husband in 2006, and they were in the process of becoming licensed foster parents. Trial testimony claimed the minor and Campbell were having sex since shortly after she moved in with them.

After she returned to Millcreek, staff said they saw them kissing and reported it as inappropriate behavior.

Campbell was indicted and convicted on one count of fondling while in a position of authority. He was acquitted of a sexual battery charge.

The state Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case.

Campbell appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, saying the state failed to prove he was in a position of trust.

The Supreme Court thought differently and ordered Campbell to serve his sentence, with five years suspended, then to be placed on two years post-release supervision.

The court also found several other of his appeals issues “without merit.” Steven Farese Sr. of Ashland was his attorney.

Justice David Chandler of Ackerman, joined by Justice Jess Dickinson of Gulfport, wrote a separate concurring opinion that Campbell and his wife were acting in the absence of Lauren’s parents. But he also asked the court to determine the limitations of the “position of trust or authority” statute so that its reach is not over-inclusive.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com