APPEAL FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 14, 307,
DIVISION "C" HONORABLE J. STERLING SNOWDY, JUDGE
Bridget A. Dinvaut Justin B. LaCour COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA
Prentice L. White COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, SHAWANDA
Susan M. Chehardy, Robert A. Chaisson, and Stephen J.
M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE
appeal, defendant challenges her conviction and enhanced
sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.
August 8, 2014, the St. John the Baptist Parish District
Attorney filed a bill of information charging Shawanda Marie
Nevers-Hawkins, defendant-herein, with theft of assets of an
aged person, in violation of La. R.S. 14:67.21. Defendant was
arraigned on August 18, 2014, and pled not guilty. On
February 16, 2016, the two-day trial commenced before a
six-person jury, which found defendant guilty as charged. On
February 18, 2016, after trial, defendant orally moved for a
post-verdict judgment of acquittal that was denied by the
March 4, 2016, the State filed a multiple offender bill of
information alleging defendant to be a "fifth"
felony offender. On June 13, 2016, defendant stipulated to
the allegations set forth in the multiple offender bill of
information. The trial judge found that the State had
presented sufficient proof that defendant was a third felony
offender. Thereafter, a restitution hearing was held. The
trial judge, however, postponed sentencing so that defense
counsel could prepare a motion for new trial.
September 8, 2016, defendant orally moved for a new trial,
which was denied that day. That same day, defendant waived
sentencing delays, but withdrew her prior stipulation to the
on September 8, 2016, the State presented testimony
supporting their allegations in the multiple offender bill of
information. After hearing the testimony, the trial judge
found that the State had proven that defendant was a third
felony offender. That day, the trial judge sentenced
defendant under La. R.S. 15:529.1 to twelve years
imprisonment in the Department of Corrections. Also, after
finding defendant to be indigent, the trial judge ordered her
to pay restitution of $20, 000.00 to the victim, in the
amount of $150.00 per month. Defendant immediately orally
moved to appeal. On September 19, 2016, defendant filed a
timely Pro Se Motion for Appeal, which was granted
the next day. This appeal follows.
trial, Barbara Sylvester testified that she was born on
October 17, 1948. At the time of trial, Ms. Sylvester was a
sixty-seven year old retiree, living alone, on a fixed income
from retirement and social security disability. Ms. Sylvester
testified that she had known Shawanda Marie Nevers-Hawkins
for most of Ms. Hawkins' life because they lived in the
same neighborhood and Ms. Sylvester was friends with Ms.
Sylvester explained that, on August 30, 2013, Ms. Hawkins
called her on the phone and asked to borrow $1, 500.00 for an
ice machine for "her restaurant." Ms. Sylvester
agreed, and Ms. Hawkins came to her house to pick up the $1,
500.00 in cash. According to Ms. Sylvester, Ms. Hawkins
promised to pay her back the next day.
that day, however, Ms. Hawkins contacted Ms. Sylvester asking
to borrow an additional $18, 500.00. Ms. Sylvester testified
that Ms. Hawkins stated that she was the owner of 3LJs
Café in LaPlace, and that the money to pay Ms.
Sylvester back was going to come from credit card sales at
the business. Ms. Hawkins drafted a 'promissory note,
' providing that she was borrowing $20, 000.00 on August
30, 2013, which would be repaid, plus an additional $20,
000.00 for a total of $40, 000.00, by September 30, 2013. Ms.
Sylvester testified that she did not know how Ms. Hawkins
intended to use the loan money but that Ms. Sylvester did not
intend to invest money in 3LJs Café.
evening of August 30, 2013, Ms. Hawkins and Ms. Sylvester
went before a notary public and signed the note. Afterward,
Ms. Sylvester went to her bank, withdrew $18, 500.00 from her
savings account, obtained a cashier's check in the amount
of $18, 500.00, and gave it to Ms. Hawkins.
Sylvester testified that Ms. Hawkins did not repay her by
September 30, 2013. Ms. Sylvester requested repayment from
Ms. Hawkins via facsimile transmission on October 17, 2013
and October 24, 2013, to no avail. At trial, Ms. Sylvester
testified that Ms. Hawkins has never repaid any of the $20,
000.00 lent to her. Ms. Sylvester testified that, in November
of 2013, she went to the St. John Parish Sheriff's Office
("SJPSO"), filed a complaint that her money was
stolen, gave a statement, and picked defendant from a
photographic lineup as the person that stole her money.
Maurice Rodriguez of the SJPSO testified that, after Ms.
Sylvester reported the incident, his investigation revealed
that defendant did not own or operate any business in St.
John Parish that would allow her to pay back the money as set
forth in the promissory note, which was drafted by defendant.
Based on his investigation and experience as a law
enforcement officer, he concluded that Ms. Sylvester was a
victim of fraud. Detective Rodriguez eventually arrested Ms.
Hawkins, defendant herein, in June of 2014, and charged her
with theft of assets of an aged person.
Deroche, an employee of the SJPSO property tax occupational
license department, testified that an occupational license is
required by St. John Parish ordinance for any person wanting
to conduct business in the Parish and that her department
maintains records of occupational licenses. Ms. Deroche
reported that SJPSO issued an occupational license, effective
June 4, 2013, to Laquana A. Lewis as the owner of 3LJs
Café Services and Sports Bar in LaPlace. Ms. Deroche
further noted that there were no occupational licenses in
defendant's name for 2013.
the State rested, Laquana Lewis, defendant's daughter,
testified that 3LJs was a family-owned business, which she
owned and defendant managed. At the close of the testimony
and evidence, the ...