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State v. Cooper

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 24, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JAMES ALLEN COOPER, JR.

          APPEALED FROM THE TWENTY-SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER 586706, DIVISION "B" HONORABLE AUGUST J. HAND, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Warren L. Montgomery District Attorney And Matthew Caplan Mary Watson Smith Assistant District Attorneys Covington, Louisiana Attorney for Appellee State of Louisiana

          Holli Herrle-Castillo Marrero, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/Appellant James Allen Cooper, Jr.

          BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, and HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          MCDONALD, J.

         The defendant, James Allen Cooper, Jr., was charged by bill of information with failure to properly register as a sex offender, a violation of La. R.S. 15:542.1.4(A)(1). The defendant pled not guilty. The defendant filed a motion to quash the bill of information, which was denied. The defendant withdrew his former plea of not guilty and entered a Crosby plea of guilty as charged, reserving his right to appeal the court's ruling on the motion to quash. See State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La. 1976). The court sentenced the defendant to three years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The defendant now appeals, designating one assignment of error. We affirm the conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         The defendant completed his sentence for a 2003 conviction for molestation of a juvenile (his eleven-year-old stepdaughter) and was released from River Correctional Center on February 15, 2017. Pursuant to La. R.S. 15:542, the defendant was required to register and provide notification as a sex offender. On February 20, 2017, the defendant went to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office (Office) and filled out the initial paperwork required for registration. He was staying with his sister, so he listed her Madisonville address as his address. The defendant was informed that he had to return to the Office by March 13, 2017, with proof of address, a State I.D. (listing sex offender status), and $628.62 (money orders) for sex offender notification.

         The defendant did not have money for the notification expenses. He asked several family members for the money, to no avail. The defendant never reported back to the Office on March 13, 2017, and he never contacted the Office at any time between his initial registration on February 20 and March 13. During this period, the defendant had gotten into an argument with his sister and left her apartment. An arrest warrant for the defendant was prepared. The defendant's daughter contacted the Office to inform the police the defendant had called her to help him leave the area and to bring him to Mississippi. On March 17, 2017, with the defendant's daughter's help, the defendant was arrested at a gas station in Pearl River.

         The defendant did not testify at the motion to quash hearing.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         In his sole assignment of error, the defendant argues the court erred in denying his motion to quash the bill of information. Specifically, the defendant contends the court failed to consider his indigency and financial reasons for why he could not fulfill his sex offender registration obligations.

         The defendant filed a motion to quash the bill of information, wherein he argued he was entitled to such relief under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to the defendant, in his motion, he was indigent and made "valiant efforts" to pay his sex offender registration fees and that, as such, he could not be imprisoned simply for being poor.

         When a trial court denies a motion to quash, factual and credibility determinations should not be reversed in the absence of a clear abuse of the trial court's discretion. See State v. Odom, 2002-2698 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/27/03), 861 So.2d 187, 191, writ denied, 2003-2142 (La. 10/17/03), 855 So.2d 765. However, a trial court's legal findings are subject to a de novo ...


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