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State v. Webster

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 11, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
JOHN LEE WEBSTER Appellant

          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 for Appellant

          J. SCHUYLER MARVIN District Attorney, JOHN M. LAWRENCE R. LANE PITTARD RICHARD R. RAY Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         Defendant 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), [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 resentencing.

         FACTS

         On 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.

         John 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.

         In 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 evidence.

         At Det. 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.

         Inside 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.

         Mr. 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.

         Mr. 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 that ...


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