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State v. Saulsberry

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 23, 2018


          Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana Trial Court No. 67192 Honorable Thomas W. Rogers, Judge

          PEGGY J. SULLIVAN Counsel for Appellant.

          JOHN F.K. BELTON District Attorney LEWIS ALLEN JONES TRACY W. HOUCK Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee.

          Before MOORE, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         The defendant, Reginald Anthony Saulsberry, agreed to plead guilty to a charge of simple burglary and as a second felony offender in exchange for a 13-year sentence with credit for time served. Saulsberry also reserved his right to appeal the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss his counsel and motion for a continuance in order to obtain new counsel. This appeal arises from these rulings. After review, we find no error in the trial court's rulings, and, therefore, we affirm Saulsberry's conviction and sentence.


         Saulsberry was charged by bill of information with the simple burglary of Fuqua Paper Supply Company ("Fuqua") in Ruston, Louisiana. Fuqua is a distributor of paper, plastics and food service disposables as well as janitorial supplies and cleaning equipment. Saulsberry was a former warehouse employee of Fuqua discharged several weeks prior to the burglary. Police found his fingerprints on a box that had been removed from a pallet of 10 vacuum cleaners and then left on the floor by the burglar; at least three vacuum cleaners in boxes were missing from the pallet. Since the vacuum cleaners were received at the warehouse after Saulsberry was fired, his fingerprints should not have been on the box. This evidence led to Saulsberry's arrest for burglary.

         On May 29, 2015, Saulsberry was charged by bill of information, and attorney James Wilkerson from the Indigent Defender Board was appointed to represent him.

         On Monday, September 28, 2016, the morning that trial was to begin, Saulsberry made a request or motion to the trial judge to remove and replace his court-appointed counsel. When the court asked the defendant why he did not bring the matter up the previous Friday when he was present in the courtroom, Saulsberry said that Wilkerson stopped him short of the podium and told him that "I was third for trial, I wouldn't go to trial until next year." However, a few minutes later, a bailiff informed him that he needed to "dress out for Monday." Saulsberry told the court that "all they been doing is lying to me ever since I had it."

         The trial court swore in the attorney, Wilkerson, for questioning. Wilkerson testified that, during his representation in this matter, he had met with Saulsberry between 10 and 20 times; however, those visits were mostly unproductive because Saulsberry usually became angry and left the meetings. He further said that Saulsberry accused him of being dishonest and "in with John Belton [the district attorney] and Lewis Jones [the ADA prosecuting his case] to drive up their conviction rates." Wilkerson could not recall the details or specifics of Saulsberry's several accusations of wrongdoing. He said that Saulsberry did file a complaint with disciplinary counsel of the bar association. That complaint, he said, was dismissed.

         Additionally, Wilkerson told the court that Saulsberry had previously complained to the court regarding his refusal to adopt two pro se motions - motion to suppress and motion for a bill of particulars. The trial judge did not recall any specific complaints by Saulsberry, but he remembered that he dismissed the motions. Wilkerson also said that Saulsberry was concerned that he (Wilkerson) did not directly ask the victim, Fuqua, for some paperwork; instead, he made this request to the ADA, Lewis Jones. He said he told Saulsberry that it was better that way, explaining to him that if the state withheld exculpatory evidence it would result in the case having to be retried. He said that the defendant then "blew up" over the matter.

         Finally, Wilkerson recounted an incident to the court that occurred on the day before trial regarding whether he would obtain a subpoena for a witness named Channing Rushing. According to Wilkerson, Rushing had evaded being located and had avoided talking to him ever since the burglary occurred. However, he was finally able to speak with Rushing by telephone the day before trial. After a lengthy telephone conversation with Rushing, he concluded that Rushing's testimony would not benefit the defendant. He discussed the matter with Saulsberry, and it was his understanding that Saulsberry agreed it would not help to subpoena Rushing, which account Saulsberry now denied. Wilkerson said that Saulsberry may have said that there was no point in his obtaining a subpoena because he (Wilkerson) would not be representing him.

         The court questioned Saulsberry, who said that Wilkerson met with him "ten times maybe." He characterized the meetings as "unproductive" because Wilkerson "was constantly lying to me." When asked for specifics, Saulsberry noted the incident on the previous Friday when Wilkerson told him that his trial was third on the court's docket. The court confirmed that the case was third on the docket, but ...

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