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State v. Sinegal

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 13, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
ROBERT SINEGAL AKA, ROBERT SENEGAL

         APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF VERMILION, NO. 60085-R HONORABLE LAURIE A. HULIN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Keith A. Stutes District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Roger P. Hamilton, Jr. Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Peggy J. Sullivan Louisiana Appellate Project COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Robert Sinegal

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE .

         After probation and parole agents, as well as officers, seized evidence following their execution of a parole warrant, the State charged the defendant with creation of a clandestine laboratory and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A jury convicted the defendant as charged. The trial court sentenced the defendant to five years at hard labor for the creation of a clandestine laboratory charge and fifteen years for the possession of a firearm charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. The defendant appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm with instructions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 25, 2015, agents with the Louisiana Department of Corrections, Office of Probation and Parole, as well as officers from the Kaplan Police Department and members of the canine unit, arrived at a residence to execute a parole warrant on Robert Sinegal. After the officers located him and collected evidence inside the residence, the State charged the defendant, Robert Sinegal, with creation of a clandestine laboratory, a violation of La.R.S. 40:983(A), and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a violation of La.R.S. 14:95.1. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the search was unreasonable because it was performed without a warrant. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and the matter proceeded to trial by jury.

         At trial, Kelly Hardy, a probation and parole officer, testified that the officers went to that particular residence because Virgie Lemaire, Assistant Chief of the Kaplan Police Department, had received information that the defendant was staying there. According to Agent Hardy, the parole warrant had been issued "based on the activity report that [the defendant] was no longer residing at his listed address" and "had not reported for the last two months." Agent Hardy further explained that the reason there were "so many"[1] to execute the warrant was "because of [the defendant]'s escape history and the information . . . received that he was in possession of a weapon."

         Upon arriving at the residence, Agent Hardy explained that they "were knocking, yelling, [and] ordering [the defendant] to come out." Agent Hardy stated that a woman, who was identified as Danielle Willis, [2] eventually exited the residence. Assistant Chief Lemaire testified that after she notified Ms. Willis of her rights, Ms. Willis confirmed that the defendant was in the residence. Agent Hardy stated that the officers continued to call for the defendant to come out and ultimately entered the residence because the defendant did not exit. After failing to locate the defendant on the first floor, Agent Hardy testified that she proceeded to the second floor.

         Upstairs, Agent Hardy explained that "there was an alcove with a window" and that there were clothes hanging on a rod in the alcove. Agent Hardy then described the following sequence of events:

So I un-holstered my weapon for my safety and started moving the clothes. Actually, I started taking them off at some point and just throwing them down. And when I got about halfway, I saw a foot with a flip-flop. I backed up and I started yelling for [the defendant] to get out, put his hands up ... .
At that point, where he was sitting, he was crouched up, on top of [a] chest. ... He turned around and opened the window and immediately ran up, onto the roof. . . .
. . . .
So I showed him I had the parole warrant. I told him to come down. He eventually slipped down, off of the roof, to me and [Assistant Chief Lemaire]. . . .
While we were holding him, he was searched. I don't remember exactly who searched him. But as I was standing there, they handed me a glass pipe which is normally used for smoking . . . synthetic drugs, . . . crack cocaine, . . . meth[amphetamine], . . . marijuana.

         Agent Hardy clarified: "Whoever was searching [the defendant] reached in [the defendant's] pocket and, from the pocket, handed me the glass pipe."

         Subsequently, Agent Hardy explained that they placed the defendant in one of the police units and then "received information that there was [sic] other things inside the residence." Upon reentering the residence, Agent Hardy explained that she returned upstairs to where she had earlier found the defendant and "located some . . . white powdery reside [sic] on the carpet" and "some white coffee filters on a table[.]" Agent Kylie Sands testified that she also searched the second floor, where she "saw a white powdery substance in the carpet, one plate" with "a white powdery substance residue in it, and a metal strainer, a coffee cup with white powdery substance residue in it as well."

         At trial, Amanda Hebert, a forensic chemist in the Acadiana Crime Lab's drug chemistry section, testified that she analyzed the abovementioned evidence. In particular, Ms. Hebert said that the glass pipe "was determined to be drug paraphernalia." Regarding the coffee filters and metal filter/strainer submitted as evidence, Ms. Hebert stated that she has seen such items used in clandestine laboratories. Additionally, Ms. Hebert explained that after testing the coffee cup, "the result was methamphetamine." Ms. Hebert explained that she "also identified methamphetamine on the white powder" and that it was "methamphetamine with a net weight of 0.24 grams." Ms. Hebert answered affirmatively when asked whether "methamphetamine would be the product, if someone would create a lab[.]"

         The group of agents and officers also searched the first floor of the residence, where Agent Melissa Bares stated that she removed the cushions from a sofa. Agent Alan Carpenter explained that the sofa contained a bed and that when he and Agent Hardy "went to grab the rail of the bed[, ]" he "looked over, inside of it" and "saw the pistol grip of a semiautomatic weapon." Agent Hardy testified similarly that when she and Agent Carpenter "grabbed the railing to pull the bedding out, there was a gun located on the floor." Sean Boneski, a lieutenant detective with the Kaplan Police Department, testified that he collected the items that were found by the officers, including the weapon. Detective Boneski explained that a shirt "was found by" the weapon and that "Ms. Willis . . . said that that was [the defendant's] shirt."

         Thereafter, Sergeant William Seaux of the Kaplan Police Department explained that he and Agent Hardy transported the defendant to the Kaplan Police Department and then to the Vermilion Parish Sheriffs Office, where the sheriffs deputy searched the defendant. Agent Hardy and Sergeant Seaux testified that they observed the deputy search the defendant and pull a bullet out of the defendant's pocket. Sergeant Seaux identified Deputy Trey D'Augereau as the deputy who had retrieved the bullet from the defendant's pocket. Deputy D'Augereau testified that on the date in question, he was employed as a corrections officer at the jail. In that capacity, he stated that he did not remember searching the defendant but recalled retrieving a bullet from "[t]he back pocket."[3] Phillip Stoute, a forensic chemist in the Acadiana Crime Lab's physical evidence section, testified that the officers submitted the weapon and the bullet to the laboratory for analysis. Mr. Stoute explained that the weapon and the bullet are the same caliber.

         Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of creation of a clandestine laboratory and guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The trial court sentenced the defendant to serve five years at hard labor for the creation of a clandestine laboratory conviction, and the trial court sentenced the defendant to "[f]ifteen years to be served without benefit, to run concurrent with count one." The defendant appeals his conviction, asserting as error that:

I. The Trial Court erred in denying the Motion to Suppress Evidence filed by the defendant in this matter.
II. The evidence adduced at trial was not sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [the defendant] was guilty of the creation of a clandestine laboratory or the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

         Discussion

         Errors Patent

         In accordance with La.Code CrimP. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent. An error patent is one which is "discoverable by a mere inspection of the pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the evidence." La.Code CrimP. art. 920(2).

         On review, we note errors with regard to the sentences as reflected in the minutes of the sentencing hearing and the commitment order. Namely, the minutes and the commitment order indicate that the sentences are to run concurrent with each other and with any other sentence the defendant may be serving. However, the transcript of the sentencing hearing instead reveals that the trial court ordered that the defendant's sentences were to run concurrent to each other only.[4] If there is a conflict between the minutes and the transcript, the transcript prevails. State v. Wommack, 00-137 (La.App. 3 Cir. 6/7/00), 770 So.2d 365, writ denied, 00-2051 (La. 9/21/01), 797 So.2d 62. Accordingly, we instruct the trial court to correct the minutes and the commitment order to reflect that the sentences were only ordered to run concurrently with each other, not with any other sentence the defendant may be serving.

         Sufficiency ...


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