[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 317,627. Honorable Craig O. Marcotte, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, bye: Carey J. Ellis, III, Counsel for Appellant.
CHARLES R. SCOTT, District Attorney Appellee; JANET L. SILVIE, CLOYCE C. CLARK, III, SUZANNE M. OWEN, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.
Before BROWN, WILLIAMS & PITMAN, JJ.
[49,351 La.App. 2 Cir. 1]
Defendant Albertus Conner, Jr., was found guilty of possession of Schedule II CDS (cocaine), a violation of La. R.S. 40:967. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at hard labor and fined $200. For the following reasons, Defendant's conviction and sentence are affirmed.
Defendant was arrested on August 22, 2013, during a reverse sting operation performed by the Shreveport Police Department at 3010 Jackson Street in Shreveport, Louisiana. Defendant entered the house and expressed his desire to purchase a " shake pack" of crack cocaine. Undercover officers posing as drug dealers sold him two " shake packs," each containing a rock of crack cocaine, for $13. When the hand-to-hand transaction was complete, the undercover officer gave the arrest signal, which, for this particular sting operation, was, " That's some good stuff. Come back and holler at me." Once the signal was given, the arrest team entered the room and arrested Defendant for possession of cocaine.
On September 11, 2013, the state filed a bill of information charging Defendant with one count of possession of Schedule II CDS, in violation of La. R.S. 40:967. The matter was tried before a jury on December 3, 2013.
The trial was initially scheduled for December 2, 2013. Defendant's court-appointed counsel was prepared for trial that day. The transcript from the hearing, however, indicates that Defendant was dissatisfied with his court-appointed counsel, wanted to fire her and desired to represent himself. [49,351 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] Defendant's court-appointed counsel stated that Defendant had previously rejected a plea deal of 100 days' imprisonment. Defendant explained that he believed his court-appointed counsel " left me in peril of a trial when there was no probable cause for me to be under arrest from August 22 to today. And that's my reasoning for wanting to be rid of her."
Following Defendant's request to represent himself, a lengthy colloquy ensued. The trial court thoroughly questioned Defendant and explained his right to an attorney. It asked Defendant whether he had any legal training, and Defendant responded that he was taught by attorneys to research title and that he had successfully represented himself in a prior criminal matter. He also stated he understood that the charge against him was a felony charge. The trial court explained the possible verdicts of possession of Schedule II CDS (cocaine), attempted possession of Schedule II CDS (cocaine) and not guilty and the sentencing ranges for each of those verdicts. He was further warned that the district attorney could decide to charge him as a habitual offender.
The trial court also explained to Defendant the basic trial procedures and that it could not provide any assistance to him from the bench during trial. It further noted that the rules governing procedure and evidence were to be applied equally and there would be no prejudice in favor of, or against, either him or the state.
The trial court expressed its opinion that a licensed attorney would provide better representation than Defendant's self-representation, and Defendant responded that he did not have any faith in his attorneys. Defendant agreed to allow the trial court
to appoint standby counsel to serve [49,351 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] and answer any questions he might have.
The trial court then asked Defendant if he wanted any witnesses subpoenaed, and Defendant answered that he wanted to call witnesses who could explain his " reason for being there" at the location of the drug operation. The trial court gave Defendant until noon that day to provide the necessary addresses to subpoena his witnesses. It also gave Defendant the compact disc containing the video surveillance from the undercover sting operation. The trial was to reconvene the next morning.
Prior to the trial beginning on December 3, 2013, Defendant's standby counsel, Mr. Andes, made a motion to see the search warrant for 3010 Jackson Street to ensure that no illegal entry into the residence had taken place. The state objected, claiming that the search warrant for the premises did not relate to the possession of cocaine charge against Defendant.
Standby counsel made a motion to suppress evidence -- the two rocks of cocaine -- based on lack of a search warrant. Standby counsel also made a motion for a continuance. Copies of the search warrant for the 3010 Jackson Street location and supporting affidavits were filed into evidence. The state inquired about who was representing Defendant -- whether he was representing himself or was being represented entirely by Mr. Andes. Mr. Andes answered, " He is representing himself. He is adopting the motions." Defendant confirmed adopting the two motions.
The trial court denied the motion to suppress the evidence and the motion for a continuance, noting that it had signed the search warrant for 3010 Jackson Street. It stated that the warrant was supported by affidavits [49,351 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] describing three separate drug buys at that location, that there was probable cause to search the residence and that the warrant was valid. The state objected to the search warrant being admitted into evidence, claiming it had nothing to do with Defendant's possession of cocaine charge.
At trial, the state presented the testimony of Narcotics Agent Joel Sharpley, Shreveport Police Department. Agent Sharpley testified that a reverse sting operation is a tool used by the narcotics division after the police department has gathered intelligence from citizens, law enforcement officers and neighbors' complaints that a residence is being used for the sale of illegal narcotics. Officers go undercover and use ...