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State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 18, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
PATRICK SETH JONES

         APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 8397-15 HONORABLE G. MICHAEL CANADAY, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Carey J. Ellis, III Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Patrick Seth Jones.

          Patrick Seth Jones, Camp C - Wolf 1, Louisiana State Prison, In Proper Person, John Foster DeRosier Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney, Karen C. McLellan, Assistant District Attorney P. O. Box 3206 Lake Charles, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Tara B. Hawkins Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.

         On January 19, 2015, two men, one masked and the other unmasked, robbed the Royal Palace Casino and employees and patrons of the casino in Calcasieu Parish. Defendant, Mr. Patrick Seth Jones, appeals his convictions on four counts of armed robbery for being the masked gunman who perpetrated the robberies, as well as his sentences for those crimes. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's convictions and sentences are affirmed.

         FACTS

         Mr. Daniel Lavergne entered the Royal Palace Casino on the night of January 19, 2015, and shortly thereafter exited it. He repeated this behavior once again, before entering the casino a third time and walking to the bar, where he ordered a "Crown and Coke" from the assistant manager/cashier/bartender, Ms. Sarah Bushnell. When he was told that he would be charged $6.00 for that drink, Mr. Lavergne declined.

         Another individual entered the casino wearing a mask, gloves, dark pants, a red flannel shirt, and a jacket. The security guard, Ms. Clara Williams, told him he must remove the mask to enter. This person struck Ms. Williams in the head, grabbed her by the shirt, and hurled her to the floor. He then began to frisk Ms. Williams, demanding to know where her gun was. By this time, the masked individual had produced a gun himself.

         Mr. Lavergne then moved to the doors to act as a lookout while the masked man led Ms. Bushnell to the back. Ms. Bushnell and Ms. Williams opened the casino safe for the masked robber. Mr. Lavergne robbed items from the other casino customers. The two bandits fled in a dark SUV that had been backed into a handicapped parking space just outside the main entrance. Ms. Bushnell then called police.

         Detective Shaun Stewart of the Sulphur Police Department investigated the crime. Detective Stewart obtained the surveillance video from the casino and contacted the Orange, Texas, Police Department. Members of that department identified Mr. Lavergne as the unmasked perpetrator from his distinctive hair style, facial hair, and neck tattoo. According to Detective Stewart, on May 4, 2015, he interviewed Mr. Lavergne, who gave a statement implicating Defendant as the masked gunman.

         Additionally, Detective Stewart ascertained that Lavergne and Defendant had been to the L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles that same night. Detective Stewart obtained surveillance video from that casino, and observed Lavergne and Defendant departing the casino in a dark SUV such as the one observed by Ms. Williams at the Royal Palace.

         Defendant was arrested in Orange, Texas, in a convenience store parking lot. He was driving a dark green Toyota Sequoia SUV.

         On March 18, 2015, Defendant was charged by bill of information with four counts of armed robbery, violations of La.R.S. 14:64, and four counts of armed robbery with a firearm, violations of La.R.S. 14:64.3. On May 3, 2016, the State amended the bill to combine the charges and reflect only four counts of armed robbery with a firearm, violations of La.R.S. 14:64 and 14:64.3.

         At trial, Mr. Lavergne recanted his identification of Defendant as the masked perpetrator. Mr. Lavergne testified that he was subpoenaed to testify and was not doing so as part of his plea agreement. When asked if another individual was with him when he robbed the casino, Mr. Lavergne replied, "I'd rather not answer that." Mr. Lavergne also denied giving a statement to Detective Stewart. Although Mr. Lavergne stated that the signature on a rights form looked like his signature, he did not recall giving a statement or signing the form. After being shown a transcript of the May 4, 2015, statement he gave to Detective Stewart, Mr. Lavergne denied giving the statement. Mr. Lavergne denied arriving at the L'Auberge du Lac in a green Toyota Sequoia, and denied knowing how Defendant arrived there. Mr. Lavergne testified that he could not recall how he had arrived at the Royal Palace. He further testified that he was picked up from the Royal Palace by a taxi that returned him to Orange, Texas.

         Cell phone transcripts were introduced that contained text messages exchanged between Mr. Lavergne and Defendant. These text messages discussed splitting cash between the two men. Mr. Lavergne testified that the money discussed represented Defendant's winnings from playing blackjack at the Isle of Capri Casino. Mr. Lavergne had received $13, 000.00 in a personal injury settlement, and he frequently carried substantial sums of cash. Defendant borrowed money from Mr. Lavergne in order to play blackjack and agreed to split his winnings with him.

         Defendant testified at trial. He testified that after they left L'Auberge du Lac, he and Mr. Lavergne drove back to Orange, Texas, and he allowed Mr. Lavergne to borrow his Toyota Sequoia. Defendant testified that he had won $7, 000.00 at the Isle of Capri, and the text messages between him and Mr. Lavergne concerned the equitable sharing of those winnings. He denied participating in the Royal Palace robbery.

         On May 6, 2016, Defendant was found guilty by a unanimous jury of four counts of armed robbery with a firearm. On May 13, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion for New Trial. The trial court denied the motion for new trial on June 20, 2016, and Defendant waived the time delays for sentencing. On that same date, the trial court imposed the following sentences: 1) Count one - fifty years at hard labor, plus five years for the firearm enhancement; 2) Count two - twenty-five years at hard labor, plus five years for the firearm enhancement; 3) Count three - twenty years at hard labor, plus five years for the firearm enhancement; and 4) ...


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