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State v. Lester

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 20, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellant
v.
JAMES HAYWARD LESTER, Appellee

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 280,931. Honorable Katherine Clark Dorroh, Judge.

DALE G. COX, District Attorney, TOMMY JAN JOHNSON, KELVIN M. RODGERS, Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellant.

CARL HENRY FRANKLIN, JAMES HAYWARD LESTER, Counsel for Appellee.

Before WILLIAMS, DREW and GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1182

[49,787 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] DREW, J.

The state appeals the grant of a motion to quash. We affirm.

FACTS

James Hayward Lester is the principal of a Shreveport contracting firm named ReGenesis Construction Company. An investigation into alleged fraud by the company in public construction projects led to the filing of a bill of information on November 18, 2009, charging Lester with:

o one count of home improvement fraud, La. R.S. 14:202.1; and
o one count of filing false public records, La. R.S. 14:133.

On the public records charge, the bill alleged:

From February 28, 2003 through August 31, 2009, he did file or deposit for record in a public office or with a public official, a document containing a false statement or false representation of material fact, to wit: " Application for Original Contractor's License."

On February 14, 2012, the state filed an amended bill, dismissing the charge of home improvement fraud, but reurging the false public records charge, alleging:

James Hayward Lester committed the offense of [filing a false public record] in that he did file or deposit for record in a public office or with a public official, a document containing a false statement or false representation of material fact, to wit: Application for Original Contractor's License.

The " Application for Original Contractor's License" referred to in both of these bills was signed under oath on February 26, 2003, and filed two days later, under the name of ReGenesis Construction Co. as an " individual" [49,787 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] application.[1] In separate sections, James H. Lester and Juanita H. Lester were both listed as " partners" and as members of a limited liability company.

Page 1183

The defendant was the qualifying party under La. R.S. 37:2156.1(D).

On this application, Question 7 inquires:

Have you or principals in your firm been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor other than violation of traffic laws? If yes, explain on separate sheet.
The word " No" is handwritten in the blank next to this question.
The Board ultimately issued a license to ReGenesis Construction.

The defendant annually submitted applications for license renewal from 2003 through 2007. None of these five renewal applications inquired as to convictions of principals; they required only certification that " all statements, answers and representations in this application are true and accurate" and advised that " any false information submitted on my behalf and verified by my signature is cause to have license denied, revoked or suspended[.]"

Defendant's answer to Question 7 was indeed inaccurate.

In 1994, under a previous name,[2] the defendant pled nolo contendere to one count of possession of less than two ounces of marijuana in Denton County, Texas. The Texas court sentenced him to a 60 day jail sentence, suspended on condition of one year of probation. The defendant did not successfully complete probation but was released from supervision in March of 1998.

[49,787 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] A July 15, 2009, affidavit in support of an arrest warrant states that Louisiana State Police obtained a copy of defendant's 2003 application for a contractor's license after contacting the Board on March 19, 2009.

The defendant prepared an explanatory letter[3] to the Board, dated October 13, 2009, which discussed his inaccurate answer to Question 7, explaining that:

(1) he did not note the contrast in wording between this application form and another licensure application which only asked about felony convictions; and

(2) that he pled " no contest" to the marijuana charge under the mistaken belief that the offense would be automatically removed from his record after two years. He admitted later ...


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