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State v. Chatman

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 24, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA, Appellee
v.
HENRY ALLEN CHATMAN, JR., Appellant

Page 1137

Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 13F0843. Honorable Bernard Scott Leehy, Judge.

LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, By: Douglas Lee, Counsel for Harville Appellant.

JERRY L. JONES, District Attorney, MICHAEL J. FONTENOT, GEORGE MENNON CAMPBELL, JR., Assistant District Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.

Before CARAWAY, DREW and LOLLEY, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1138

[49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] DREW, J.

A unanimous jury convicted Henry Allen Chatman, Jr., for the crimes of aggravated burglary and second degree kidnapping.

He received concurrent sentences of 30 years at hard labor for aggravated burglary and 40 years at hard labor, without benefits, for second degree kidnapping. A motion to reconsider sentence was denied.

The defendant appeals his conviction for aggravated burglary on the basis of insufficient evidence. He challenges both sentences as excessive.

We affirm in all respects.

FACTS

On March 21, 2013, Michelle Boyd lived with her boyfriend, James Butler, in the Parkview Apartments in Monroe. Also residing there were her two children, ages two and three, as well as Butler's young son.

The defendant had previously dated Butler's sister, but she broke up with him. He often came over to speak with Butler, to solicit his help with getting them back together. Butler refused to:

o intercede with his sister;

o discuss his sister with the defendant; or

o allow the defendant entry into Michelle's apartment.

On or about March 19, 2013, the defendant pushed his way inside Michelle's apartment. He fought with Butler. The defendant was not armed and was hospitalized from injuries suffered in the fracas.

Two evenings later, he returned, with a knife in his hand. He forced his way inside, and looked through the apartment, apparently looking for Butler, who was not present. As he departed, the defendant picked up [49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] Michelle's two-year-old son and took him outside, with the knife at the child's neck. Michelle followed, pleading to get her child back.

A bystander named Marvin Davis confronted the defendant and told him to return the child. At that point, the defendant dropped the child and attacked Davis,

Page 1139

cutting him on his hand.[1] Michelle grabbed her son and fled. Fortunately, the child suffered only a bump on his head.

Butler came to the scene when the incident began. He ran to borrow a firearm from a neighbor. When he returned, he saw the defendant leaving with the child. Butler pursued the defendant and then subdued him by striking him several times with the handgun.

The defendant was convicted and sentenced as noted.

DISCUSSION

I. Sufficiency of Evidence as to the Aggravated Burglary Conviction

The defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that at the point he entered the apartment, he had the requisite intent to commit a felony or theft inside. He thus submits that the state failed to prove the crime of aggravated burglary, suggesting that the only conviction supported by the evidence is unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling.

The state counters that the defendant actually committed the felony of second degree kidnapping while in the apartment by grabbing the child and carrying him out of the apartment. Based on his previous encounter with Butler, it is also well within reason that he planned to attack Butler with the [49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] knife. The state argues that this record supports a finding that he at least had specific intent to commit aggravated battery.[2] We agree.

Our law on the review of sufficiency questions is well settled.[3]

Page 1140

[49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] Aggravated burglary[4] is a much misunderstood crime. To secure a valid conviction, the state must prove that a defendant:

1. Made an unauthorized entry into either:
o an inhabited dwelling, or
o any structure where a person is present;
2. With the intent to commit a felony or any theft therein;
3. Under any one of the following three situations:
o the offender is armed with a dangerous weapon, or
o after entering, the offender arms himself with a dangerous weapon, or
o the offender batters any person while in such place or while entering or leaving such place.

Ample evidence was adduced to support these convictions. A reasonable jury could find that this defendant had the specific intent to commit a felony inside Michelle's apartment. It is not disputed that he forced his way into the apartment while holding a knife. His demeanor during the course of events indicated that he was looking for Butler. It is not disputed that he used a knife to kidnap a small child.

[49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 5] On this record, it is reasonable that a jury could conclude that the defendant intended to confront and injure Butler. Only two days before, the defendant was hospitalized when he lost a fight with Butler. The jury was within its discretion to infer from these facts that the defendant committed the crime of aggravated burglary.[5]

Page 1141

II. Excessiveness of the Sentences

Defendant's argument regarding his sentence is that he:

o was a scorned lover rather than a serious kidnapper or burglar;

o made poor decisions at a time when he was not in his right mind;

o does not deserve the maximum sentences imposed; and

o is certainly not the worst kind of this type of offender.

Our law on appellate review of sentences is well settled.[6]

The sentencing range for aggravated burglary is from not less than one to not more than 30 years at hard labor. La. R.S. 14:60.

[49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 6] Second degree kidnapping runs from five to 40 years at hard labor. At least two years must be served without benefits. La. R.S. 14:44.1(C).[7]

The defendant's motion to reconsider his sentences alleges mere excessiveness. Accordingly, our court's review of these sentences is limited to considering whether the sentence is constitutionally excessive. See State v. Mims, 619 So.2d 1059 (La. 1993), and State v. Boyd, 46,321 (La.App.2d Cir. 9/21/11), 72 So.3d 952.

The trial court, after thoroughly reviewing a presentence investigation, expressly stated the aggravating factors and noted the absence of any mitigating factors under La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1.

The sentences imposed are not constitutionally excessive.

The defendant has three prior felony convictions, plus criminal history as a juvenile and as an adult.[8] As a fourth felony offender, he could have been sentenced to a mandatory life imprisonment. La. R.S. 15:529.1.

The trial court noted the seriousness of the crimes, emphasizing that the danger to the child amounted to deliberate cruelty to the victims.

The defendant secured no further education after he was expelled in the seventh grade. His parole has been revoked twice. He admits use of PCP, marijuana, and alcohol, though he denies any addictions.

Page 1142

He has a very spotty employment record and no familial obligations of support.

The defendant brandished the knife to gain entry to an apartment in which three children were living. As the defendant left, he grabbed one of [49,970 La.App. 2 Cir. 7] the children, holding a knife to him. He then threw the child to the mother and attacked the man who was trying to stop his crime spree.

He claims to have gotten in with the wrong crowd.[9]

Considering the nature of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, and the trial court's thorough analysis of the presentence investigation report, we find that the imposition of these concurrent sentences does not shock the sense of justice, nor are the sentences a needless imposition of pain and suffering. State v. Dorthey, 623 So.2d 1276 (La. 1993).

DECREE

The defendant's convictions and sentences are AFFIRMED.


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