On Appeal from The 22nd Judicial District Court, Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana. Trial Court No. 540649-1. The Honorable Allison H. Penzato, Judge Presiding.
Walter P. Reed, District Attorney, Covington, Louisiana; Kathryn W. Landry, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellee, State of Louisiana.
Mary E. Roper, Louisiana Appellate Project, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Defendant/Appellant, Leo Tristan Charles.
BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ. McDONALD, J. Concurs.
[2014 1411 La.App. 1 Cir. 2]
The defendant, Leo T. Charles, was charged with aggravated flight from an officer, a violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:108.1C (count I), and aggravated obstruction of a highway of commerce, a violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:96(A) (count II). After pleading not guilty, the defendant was tried before a jury and found guilty as charged on both counts. The trial court denied motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal.
The State then filed two habitual offender bills of information, one for each count, alleging the defendant was a fourth or subsequent felony habitual offender. The defendant stipulated to the allegations and was adjudicated a fourth-felony habitual offender on each count in accordance with Louisiana Revised Statute 15:529.1A(4)(a). He was sentenced on each count to imprisonment at hard labor for thirty-five years, without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence, with the sentences to run concurrently.
On appeal the defendant asserts that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he was the person who committed the offenses, arguing that the State did not prove that he was the driver of the vehicle involved in a high speed chase. Based upon that same argument, the defendant also contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal. Finding no merit in these assignments of error, we affirm the defendant's convictions, habitual offender adjudication, and sentences.
On September 15, 2013, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Detective Dennis Bush of the Slidell Police Department was conducting surveillance of two individuals in a blue Nissan Xterra. Detective Bush recognized the driver of the vehicle as the defendant and the passenger as Prentiss Wallace. The detective observed a white [2014 1411 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] female quickly approach the driver's side of the Xterra, make a quick hand-to-hand exchange, then walk away. Suspecting that the exchange was a drug transaction, Detective Bush contacted another detective, John Cole, and informed him of the situation.
Detective Bush followed the Xterra for about a mile and half when it stopped again. The passenger, Wallace, exited the vehicle and appeared to engage in another hand-to-hand transaction with the driver of
a second vehicle, then returned to the passenger seat of the Xterra. At that point, Detective Bush decided to pursue the second vehicle and requested that Detective Cole, who was then near the scene, pursue the Xterra. Detective Bush described the Xterra, and Detective Cole ...