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State v. Robinson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 9, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
THERESA ROBINSON Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 310, 684 Honorable Katherine Clark Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES EDWARD STEWART, SR. District Attorney REBECCA ARMAND EDWARDS JOSHUA K. WILLIAMS Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before WILLIAMS, COX, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          COX, J.

         After a bench trial, the defendant, Theresa Robinson ("Robinson"), was convicted of felony theft under La. R.S. 14:67. She received a suspended five-year hard labor sentence with five years' supervised probation and was also ordered to pay full restitution. Robinson appeals her conviction, arguing the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS

         In August 2012, the owners of Bailey Bark Materials ("Bailey Bark"), a landscaping business with offices in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Nacogdoches, Texas, obtained access to the Shreveport office's accounting records from the bookkeeper, Robinson, for preparation of the company's 2011 tax return. For accounting purposes, the company used QuickBooks software, with a point of sales component for printing out a daily sales summary showing the total sales for the day by payment type and an accounting software component that calculated and recorded daily deposits and reconciled them to monthly bank statements.

         Upon review by a certified public accountant ("CPA"), numerous irregularities, including large numbers of uncleared deposit transactions, were discovered. Uncleared deposits result from deposits entered into the software that are not matched with deposits actually made to the bank and reflected on the month-end bank statements. The CPA determined that a user signed in under the "Administrator" login and made frequent changes to deposit transactions sufficient to raise concern that the company bank reconciliations may be inaccurate.

          On the advice of the CPA, the Nacogdoches office bookkeeper re-performed the Shreveport office's monthly reconciliations for 2011 and 2012 by using the "undo" feature in QuickBooks. The newly prepared bank reconciliations confirmed a pattern of uncleared deposits from January 2011 through August 2012 that resulted in more than a $100, 000 shortage to the business. Further investigation revealed that each of the uncleared deposits matched cash received by the business on the date of the deposit. After the company co-owner, Jeff Bailey, addressed all four Shreveport employees in mid-August 2012, no further uncleared deposits occurred.

         Thereafter, Bailey Bark enlisted the services of David Macey, an accountant certified in fraud examination. In his October 24, 2012, report, Macey confirmed that more than $100, 000 of the company's money had been lost or stolen. He recommended that all Shreveport employees be considered suspects, but named Robinson as a person of particular interest because she was responsible for preparing the bank reconciliations throughout the period and should have at least notified the company of the accumulation of uncleared deposits.

         On October 29, 2012, one of the office managers of Bailey Bark filed a theft report with the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office. After interviews with the four Shreveport employees, investigators learned Robinson was responsible for entering the deposit information into the QuickBooks accounting software. Robinson was brought in for an interview and informed of her rights, but refused to speak and requested an attorney. Thereafter, Robinson was arrested and charged with felony theft.

          Robinson was tried by bench trial and found guilty as charged.[1] The trial court denied motions for new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal raising issues of the sufficiency of the evidence to convict Robinson. Robinson was sentenced to a suspended sentence of five years at hard labor and placed on five years' supervised probation with full restitution of $20, 000 annually over a five-year period as part of her probation. She was also ordered to pay court costs and a $50 monthly fee to the Indigent Defender's Office or to serve default time of 30 days in jail.[2]Robinson appeals her conviction, urging that the State's evidence was insufficient to convict her.

         LAW

         The standard of appellate review for a sufficiency of the evidence claim is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Robinson, 50, 643 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/22/16), 197 So.3d 717. This standard, now legislatively embodied in La.C.Cr.P. art. 821, does not provide the appellate court with a vehicle to substitute its own appreciation of the evidence for that of the factfinder. State v. Sullivan, 51, 180 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/15/17), 216 So.3d 175. The appellate court does not assess the credibility of witnesses or reweigh evidence. State v. Dale, 50, 195 (La.App. 2 Cir. 11/18/15), 180 So.3d 528, writ denied, 2015-2291 (La. 4/4/16), 190 So.3d 1203. A reviewing court accords great deference to the factfinder's decision to accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Randle, 49, 952 (La.App. 2 Cir. 6/24/15), 166 So.3d 465; State v. Casaday, 49, 679 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/27/15), 162 So.3d 578, writ denied, 15-0607 (La. 2/5/16), 186 So.3d 1162.

         The Jackson standard is applicable in cases involving both direct and circumstantial evidence. An appellate court reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in such cases must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts established by the direct evidence and inferred from the circumstances established by that evidence must be sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v. Luzzo, 2016-0289 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/1/17), 214 So.3d 55. Circumstantial evidence consists of proof of collateral facts and circumstances from which the existence of the main fact may be inferred according to reason and common experience. State v. Worthy, 2016-0431 (La.App. 4 Cir. 10/5/16), 203 So.3d 372. A conviction based upon circumstantial evidence must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. La. R.S. 15:438; State v. Alexander, 2014-1619 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/18/15), 182 So.3d 126, writ denied, 2015-1912 (La. 1/25/16), 185 So.3d 748.

         The elements of the crime of theft are: (1) there must be a misappropriation or taking; (2) the misappropriation or taking must be of a thing of value; (3) the thing must belong to another; and, (4) the misappropriation or taking must be with the intent to deprive the other permanently of that which is the subject of the taking. State v. Bailey, 50, 097 (La.App. 2 Cir. 9/30/15), 180 So.3d 442. The prosecution must also prove the value of the stolen thing because the value is determinative of both the severity of the offense and the degree of the punishment upon conviction. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, Robinson argues that no direct evidence established she took any money or made the deposits in question, and the remaining circumstantial evidence established other employees had access to the money and computers used to make sales and deposits and reconcile bank accounts. For these reasons, Robinson ...


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