Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of West Carroll, Louisiana. Trial Court Nos. 2011F076 and 2013F085. Honorable Terry A. Doughty, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, By: Peggy J. Sullivan, Counsel for Appellant.
JOHN M. LANCASTER, District Attorney, Penny W. Douciere, John C. Hamilton, Will R. Barham, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.
Before STEWART, LOLLEY and GARRETT, JJ.
[49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] STEWART, J.
Following a jury trial, the defendant, Shawn Lewis, was convicted of illegal possession of stolen things. After being adjudicated a fifth-felony habitual offender, the defendant was sentenced to 25 years at hard labor, without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence. The defendant now appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.
On August 12, 2011, the defendant was charged by bill of information with a violation of " La. R.S. 14:67 AB(1)," specifically, the theft of a Kawasaki ATV (" the Kawasaki" ) valued at $1,500 or more that occurred prior to June 12, 2010. The state twice amended the bill of information, and at the time of trial, the defendant was charged with theft valued at $500 or greater, or in the alternative, illegal possession of stolen things valued at $500 or greater.
The first witness was Lewis Russell (" Russell" ), the former chief criminal investigator
for the West Carroll Parish Sheriff's Office. Russell testified that he learned of the theft of the Kawasaki while investigating the defendant's cousin, Tommy Lewis (" Tommy" ), in connection with a burglary. Tommy informed Russell that the defendant had stolen a four-wheeler from Freddie Payne (" Payne" ) on or about June 12, 2010, and traded the stolen four-wheeler for another four-wheeler belonging to Mark Lewis (" Mark" ), Tommy's brother who lives in Mississippi. Russell spoke with Mark on the phone and confirmed that he had in fact traded his Yamaha four-wheeler (" the Yamaha" ) for a " newer and bigger one," [49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] namely, the Kawasaki, with the defendant. Mark apparently was not aware that the Kawasaki he received in the trade was stolen. Mark provided the serial number, make, and model of the four-wheeler in his possession. The serial number matched that of Payne's stolen Kawasaki.
Russell recovered the Kawasaki from Mark's home in Mississippi and took a statement from Mark about how he had come to possess it. Mark's statement matched what Tommy had told Russell about the trade made by the defendant. Russell then obtained a warrant and arrested the defendant. The Yamaha was recovered from the woods behind the house where the defendant's father, Billy Lewis (" Billy" ), resided.
In the course of Russell's testimony, the state introduced the offense report filed by Payne on June 12, 2010, concerning the stolen Kawasaki. The state also introduced the sales receipts for the purchases of the Yamaha by Melissa Greene (" Greene" ), Mark's wife, from Village Cycle Center, Inc., in Starkville, Mississippi, on December 20, 1996, and the Kawasaki by Payne from Delta Ridge Implement, Inc., in Delhi, Louisiana, in 2001.
After Russell's testimony, the state called Tommy, who confirmed that he provided the police with information regarding a stolen Kawasaki at the time of his own arrest for theft charges. Tommy testified that he and the defendant saw the Kawasaki parked on the side of a field while they were driving around looking for hay. Around the end of that same week, the defendant told Tommy that he had gone back and gotten the Kawasaki [49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] from the field. While talking with his brother, Mark, on the telephone, Tommy learned he was interested in getting a bigger four-wheeler. Tommy's communications with Mark and the defendant led to them arranging to trade four-wheelers. To make the trade, the defendant followed Tommy to meet Mark. Tommy, accompanied by his girlfriend, Laree Hart (" Laree" ), and his children, was meeting Mark at a halfway point between their homes to drop off the children for a visit in Mississippi. The defendant followed in his truck behind Tommy's vehicle. Tommy testified that the defendant transported the Kawasaki in a horse trailer, but stopped in Eudora, Arkansas, to unload the Kawasaki from the horse trailer and put it in the back of his truck. Tommy testified that these events related by him happened within about a week's time. Though Tommy knew the Kawasaki was stolen, he did not tell Mark. Tommy also testified that he told the police that the Yamaha could be found either at the residence of the defendant or the defendant's father.
Laree testified that she and Tommy had been at the defendant's house riding four-wheelers
on the day of the trade between the defendant and Mark. She recalled seeing a four-wheeler loaded in a horse trailer attached to the defendant's truck. She testified that she accompanied Tommy to bring his children to Mark and that the defendant followed them. She also recalled that the defendant stopped along the way to unload the four-wheeler from the horse trailer and load it on the bed of his truck. Laree did not know anything about the trade between the defendant and Mark and denied knowing the Kawasaki was stolen. She admitted that she was on [49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] felony probation for burglary and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and that she committed both offenses with Tommy.
Mark testified that he traded four-wheelers with the defendant in June 2010. He told his brother, Tommy, that he was looking for a bigger four-wheeler and learned from Tommy that the defendant " had plenty of four wheelers." Soon after, the defendant called him about trading their four-wheelers. Mark and the defendant agreed to meet at a halfway point between their homes. Mark testified that he was accompanied by his nephew and son and that the defendant had a woman and some children with him. Mark also testified that Tommy and Laree brought Tommy's children to meet him for a visit. Mark traded the Yamaha that was given to him by Greene. He confirmed that he traded with the defendant, not with Tommy. He denied covering for Tommy.
Assistant Police Chief Charles Irby, of the Oak Grove Police Department, testified about a burglary and theft of tools that occurred at Mike's Automotive on February 12, 2013. Irby said that a confidential informant reported that tools taken from Mike's Automotive had been seen in the defendant's toolbox. The missing tools were found in the defendant's toolbox at his then place of employment and positively identified by serial number. The defendant was subsequently charged with simple burglary in West Carroll Parish where that offense occurred and with illegal possession of stolen things in Richland Parish where the tools were recovered.
As its final witness, the state called Gloria Wright (" Wright" ), a supervisor of probation and parole with the Department of Corrections. [49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] Wright was the defendant's parole and probation officer for two years, from 2008 to 2010, for two charges: illegal possession of stolen things, namely, a four-wheeler, and alteration of a motor vehicle VIN on that stolen four-wheeler. She had no problems during her supervision of the defendant. When the state asked whether she had a copy of his rap sheet, and whether she recalled his other offenses, Wright answered that " there were numerous convictions on his parole certificate."
At the close of the state's case, the parties stipulated that the value of the Kawasaki was in excess of $500.
The defendant's father, Billy, testified for the defense. Billy testified that he traded a 1968 Chevrolet truck with Tommy for the Yamaha that was found on his property and that the defendant never possessed the Yamaha. Although he told investigators that the trade had occurred three or four years earlier, he testified that it actually occurred about one year to eight months before the Yamaha was seized from this property. Though he claimed to have traded a truck for the Yamaha, Billy admitted that he had not signed the truck title over to Tommy. He claimed this was because he still had some repairs to make on it. He also did not get the title to the Yamaha from Tommy.
The defendant testified on his own behalf. He denied taking the Kawasaki and trading four-wheelers with Mark. He claimed that the last time he saw Mark
was when he was 18 years old, about 20 years ago. When questioned by the state, the defendant admitted to a number of prior offenses.
[49-542 La.App. 2 Cir. 6] Following closing arguments, the jury found the defendant guilty of illegal possession of stolen things, valued at more than $500. The state then announced that it would file an habitual offender bill against the defendant. After a hearing on April 2, 2014, the defendant was adjudicated a fifth-felony offender. He was sentenced that same date to 25 years at hard labor without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence as a fifth-felony habitual offender. The defendant now appeals his conviction and sentence.
Sufficiency of the Evidence