A Marshall County jury saw two sex scenes in the 1991 Nicolas Cage movie "Zandalee," concluded that by local standards it's pornographic and convicted a 36-year-old man for showing a video of the film to three elementary school-age children.
Cauley McCilton "Clint" Cross, formerly of Franklin, was convicted on three counts of exhibition of indecent scenes that lack serious value to minors, and two counts of aggravated sexual battery for having placed the hand of a stepson on the chest of a neighbor's daughter.
The girl, boy and his brother "were pretending to be asleep" on the couch, Sheriff's Detective Capt. Norman Dalton said. "The girl's testimony was that she hid her face when the dirty parts of the movie would come on."
Sheriff Les Helton said Cross' conviction "sends a signal to these people that we're not going to tolerate these perverted crimes."
Cross' lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Michael Collins told the jury that the boys' mother met another man, set up the boys' step-father, and coerced the children to fib about the events on the night of March 29, 2008. The boy's mother moved in with another man about two months later.
"I barely knew him" before April last year, testified the mother, who's not named here to avoid identification of the children, They aren't being named either. The Marshall Tribune does not identify victims of sex crimes.
Directed by Sam Pillsbury, "Zandalee," played by Erika Anderson, is a story of infidelity. Judge Reinhold plays the husband, an old friend of a cocaine user played by Cage. The sex triangle set in New Orleans shows graphic scenes of lovemaking. The sex triangle set in New Orleans shows graphic scenes of lovemaking.
"It's a dull movie," Dalton said. "The only reason anybody would watch it is because of the sex scenes."
The cardboard sleeve for the videocassette describes the film as the "unrated, uncut version."
The film has had two ratings for display in theaters: NC-17 which prohibits display to juveniles and an R rating that allows showing to juveniles accompanied by an adult.
According to statements in court and explanations from Dalton the children were ages eight to 12. The girl was watching other movies, including a dog story, "Beethovan," and playing video games on that Saturday with the brothers. After the boys' mother went to bed, Cross started playing "Zandalee" while seated on the couch with the children.
It was important for the jury to view some of the movie so comparisons could be made between what's portrayed and what the children told Dalton, the detective captain said.
The defense attorney said it was "a hard trial for everybody involved," but he argued there were inconsistencies between testimony such as what was cooked for dinner that night. Cross blamed one of the boys for the touching incident. The defendant's behavior thereafter was also called into question and Collins sought to provide reasonable doubt for the jury's deliberations.
"When the child tells the same thing over time," Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard said, "then my antenna go up... They don't always remember everything.
"Did those children look like they were coached?" the prosecutor asked the jurors, reminding them Cross went to Georgia and had to be extradited back to Marshall County.
One of the boys told his mother and all three children told the girl's mother, Dalton said. The girl's mother called the Sheriff's Department after Cross was arrested on other charges. His arrest on the exhibition and sexual battery charges was while he was in jail. Cross made bond and fled to Georgia where he was charged with driving under the influence. He was extradited on Aug. 4.
Cross is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Robert Crigler on April 9, Dalton said. Sex crime convictions in Tennessee require convicts to serve the entire sentence. The range on the combined charges in this case is eight to 12 years.