Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for
the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 214, 581
Honorable E. Charles Jacobs, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Christopher A. Aberle Counsel
SCHUYLER MARVIN District Attorney, JOHN M. LAWRENCE R. LANE
PITTARD RICHARD R. RAY Assistant District Attorneys Counsel
MOORE, PITMAN, and McCALLUM, JJ.
John Lee Webster was charged with and convicted of illegal
possession of stolen things over $1, 500, in violation of La.
R.S. 14:69(B)(1),  and sentenced to ten years'
imprisonment at hard labor. He now appeals his conviction and
sentence. For the following reasons, his conviction and
sentence are vacated; a conviction of illegal possession of
stolen property valued at under $500, in violation of La.
R.S. 14:69(B)(3), is entered; and the matter is remanded for
October 26, 2015, Defendant was charged by bill of
information with illegal possession of stolen things over $1,
500, in violation of La. R.S. 14:69(B)(1). A trial was held
February 6 and 7, 2017. The following facts were gleaned from
the testimony of the state's witnesses.
Russell Cox, formerly a detective with the Bossier City
Police Department, testified that in August 2015, he was
called to investigate an incident at Bobby Brannon Heating
& Air ("BBH&A"). Bobby Brannon, the owner
of BBH&A, complained that some blank payroll checks had
been stolen from his office. Some of the stolen checks were
later cashed at various places in Bossier City, Louisiana,
including several Thrifty Liquor stores.
August 2015, Det. Cox received a report that a man was at a
Thrifty Liquor store in Bossier City trying to cash a payroll
check, No. 28351, from BBH&A, made out to "Dustin
Hall, " in the amount of $1, 223. He arrived at the
store, recognized the check as stolen and arrested the
suspect, Justin Hall. Hall told Det. Cox that he had obtained
the check from Jennifer Pawlik. Subsequently, Jennifer Pawlik
was apprehended. He learned from Pawlik that she had obtained
the check from Defendant, who was to receive $500 from the
cash proceeds of the check. The check was admitted into
Cox's request, Pawlik texted Defendant to meet her in a
parking lot where Det. Cox and Pawlik, along with several
other officers, waited for his arrival. Defendant arrived as
scheduled, driving an old Buick, and was immediately taken
into custody. The Buick was impounded and searched.
the vehicle, officers found nine of the missing payroll
checks and one check stub. Six of the checks were blank and
were found on the rear floorboard of the car. One of the
checks found in the center console of the vehicle, Check No.
28372, was written to payee "Quinton Stewart, " in
the amount of $380, with the payor's alleged signature,
Robert S. Brannon. The back of the check was indorsed with
the signature of Quinton Stewart. Check No. 28373 was written
out only to "Ouin" with no amount or signature of
the payor. Check No. 28374 was written to payee "Quinton
Stewart" in the amount of $350, but this check did not
have a signature on the line for the payor. These checks were
admitted into evidence.
Brannon testified that on August 18, 2015, he received a
phone call at 2:00 a.m. from a friend stating that his
business was on fire. The next day he was allowed into the
building. He noticed that his office door had been
"kicked down" and his file cabinet, containing at
least 100 payroll checks and some checkbooks, was missing. He
immediately notified his bank of the theft.
Brannon identified the nine checks found in Defendant's
vehicle as some of the payroll checks that were stolen from
his office. He identified 17 stolen payroll checks that had
been cashed. He testified that he did not know any of the
persons identified as payees on the checks, one of which
included payee "Quinton Stewart, " and that he did
not know who had forged the checks. He also testified that he
did not know Defendant, that Defendant had never been an
employee of BBH&A and that he had not given Defendant
authority to possess any of the payroll checks. He stated