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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 16, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
AARON WILLIAMS

         On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. 09-12-0583 Honorable Richard Moore, III, Judge Presiding

          Hillar Moore District Attorney Dylan C. Alge Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee State of Louisiana.

          Bertha M. Hillman Covington, LA Counsel for Defendant/ Appellant Aaron Williams.

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         The defendant, Aaron Williams, was charged by bill of information with false imprisonment; offender armed with dangerous weapon, a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:46.1 (count 1); domestic abuse aggravated assault (minor child thirteen years age or younger present at residence), a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:37.7 (count 2); and aggravated assault with a firearm, a violation of LSA-R.S. 14:37.4 (count 3). The defendant pled not guilty to the charges and, following a jury trial, was found not guilty on count 1 (false imprisonment) and guilty as charged on counts 2 and 3. For the domestic abuse aggravated assault conviction, the defendant was sentenced to two years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; for the aggravated assault with a firearm conviction, the defendant was sentenced to three years imprisonment at hard labor. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively. The trial court suspended the sentence for the aggravated assault with a firearm conviction, and placed the defendant on supervised probation for four years with conditions. The defendant now appeals, designating two assignments of error. For the following reasons, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

         FACTS

         The defendant, his girlfriend Precious Kotte, and Precious' three-year-old son lived in an apartment in Tigerland on Alvin Dark Avenue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On August 2, 2012, at about 3:30 a.m., the defendant and Precious were arguing in their bedroom, while Precious's son was asleep in his bedroom. Precious had slept with another man a year prior, and the defendant sought information regarding that incident. Precious refused to tell the defendant anything about it. The defendant walked to the dresser and removed from the top drawer Precious's Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol. The defendant sat on the bed and insisted that Precious tell him about her past relationship with another man. When Precious still refused to tell him anything, the defendant straddled Precious and essentially sat on her torso, with his knees on either side of her. The defendant put the barrel of the gun against Precious's left temple and told her he was going to kill her with her own gun, throw her body in the river, and no one would ever know. The defendant then fired the gun just above Precious's head. The bullet traveled through a picture frame and metal sign on the nightstand and became lodged in the base of a lamp.

         Shocked and angry, Precious berated the defendant for firing the gun. The defendant sat on the edge of the bed, still holding the gun. He continued to ask about her past relationship, and Precious told him everything he wanted to know. They talked for hours and, every once in a while, the defendant put the gun down and went to the bathroom or to the kitchen. During most of their conversing, however, the defendant held on to the gun and repeatedly beseeched Precious to give him one good reason why he should not shoot her for cheating on him. They finally came to terms, and Precious, to appease defendant, agreed to get off of birth control and to marry him within two weeks. The defendant then put the gun in his backpack on the dining room table and went to sleep. It was now approximately 11:30 a.m. Precious took the gun from the backpack, grabbed her child, and left the apartment.

         Precious went to the Baton Rouge City Constable's Office on St. Louis Street because, in the past, she had seen police around that area. Frantic and crying, Precious gave her gun to two constables, who took her inside and called the Baton Rouge Police Department. Detective Walter Griffin, with the Baton Rouge Police Department, arrived at the constable's office a short time later and interviewed Precious. Police then went to the apartment and arrested the defendant. The defendant was brought to the police station and gave a recorded statement. The defendant admitted he had the gun and that he shot it, but told the detectives that it accidentally discharged.[1]

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1

         In his first assignment of error, the defendant argues there is patent error on the face of the record.

         The applicable law at the time of the incident is the amended version of LSA-R.S. 14:37.4, which provides that aggravated assault with a firearm is an assault committed with a firearm. Prior to the amendment, which took effect in May of 2012, LSA-R.S. 14:37 .4 provided that aggravated assault with a firearm is an assault committed by the discharge of a firearm. The bill of information charged that the defendant committed the crime of aggravated assault with a firearm by "discharging a firearm." Following closing arguments, the trial court instructed the jury that this crime was an assault committed by the "discharge of a firearm." The defendant contends that the use of this language constituted patent error because the discharge of a firearm is no longer an element of the offense.

         Patent error is an error that is discoverable by a mere inspection of the pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the evidence. LSA-C.Cr.P. art. 920(2). We find no patent error on the face of the record. There is nothing erroneous about the language used in Count 3, wherein the State charged that on August 2, 2012, "the defendant assaulted Precious Kotte, by discharging a firearm[.]" While discharging a firearm is not an element of the offense of aggravated assault with a firearm that the State must prove, the defendant nevertheless assaulted Precious Kotte with a firearm when he armed himself with a gun, repeatedly pointed it at Precious, and threatened to kill her. See State v. Lafleur, 16-467 (La.App. 3 ...


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