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State v. Lightfoot

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 12, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CHAD LIGHTFOOT

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 531-337, SECTION "L" HONORABLE FRANZ ZIBILICH, JUDGE.

          LEON A. CANNIZZARO JR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY SCOTT G. VINCENT ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY ORLEANS PARISH 619 S. WHITE STREET NEW ORLEANS, LA 70119 COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE

          KEVIN V. BOSHEA ATTORNEY AT LAW 2955 RIDGELAKE DRIVE, SUITE 207 METAIRIE, LA 70002 COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT

          (Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Tiffany G. Chase)

          Tiffany G. Chase Judge.

         Chad Lightfoot (hereinafter "Lightfoot") appeals his conviction for one count each of monetary instrument abuse, forgery, bank fraud, and fraudulent acquisition of a credit card. Mr. Lightfoot lists nine assignments of error for review.[1] After consideration of the record before this Court and the applicable law, we affirm Lightfoot's convictions and sentences.

         RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On April 16, 2016, Lightfoot visited a local title company, ABC Title, where he obtained a Louisiana identification card, which displayed his picture but bore the name John Hawkins (hereinafter referred to as "Hawkins"). Later that year, on August 19, 2016, Lightfoot went to the Greater New Orleans Federal Credit Union (hereinafter referred to as the "Credit Union") and presented himself as Hawkins.

         Danielle Williams, a ten-year employee of the Credit Union, who was responsible for opening new accounts and loan processing, testified that Lightfoot represented himself as Hawkins. Lightfoot successfully opened a checking account. Ms. Williams explained the application process for the opening of checking accounts. She stated that the system is computerized and testified that she scanned the social security card and ID given to her by Lightfoot into the system. She further testified that Lightfoot deposited cash and a $9.00 check from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, payable to Hawkins, to open the account. He applied for a credit card with a $2, 000.00 limit, also in the name of Hawkins.[2]Ms. Williams recalled that there was video surveillance footage from the day of the event. The video was played for the jury, and Ms. Williams positively identified Lightfoot as the person who represented himself as Hawkins.

         Testimony was also presented from an administrator at the Credit Union who became suspicious when she recognized the employer's name listed on the credit application and the picture on the ID She delved further by pulling up a previous transaction, which contained a photo of Lightfoot. The photos of Lightfoot and Hawkins were the same. All employees of the credit union who testified were unequivocal that there was never any indication that Lightfoot was opening an account for anyone other than himself. The Director of Compliance for the Credit Union contacted the New Orleans Police Department.

         On November 18, 2016, Lightfoot was arrested and charged with one count of monetary instrument abuse, one count of forgery, one count of bank fraud, and one count of fraudulent acquisition of a credit card. During trial, Lightfoot filed several motions for mistrial, which were denied. After a jury trial, Lightfoot was found guilty on all counts. Following trial, Lightfoot filed a motion for mistrial and a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. All motions were denied by the trial court. The trial court sentenced Lightfoot to five years at hard labor with credit for time served. This appeal followed.

         ERRORS PATENT

         We have reviewed the record for errors patent and find none. See La.C.Cr.P. art. 920.

         DISCUSSION

         Lightfoot lists nine assignments of error for review. For ease of discussion, we organize the assignments into seven sections: (1) sufficiency of the evidence; (2) authentication; (3) jury selection process; (4) use of back strikes; (5) jury instruction; (6) presentation of defense; and (7) double jeopardy.[3]

         Sufficiency of Evidence

         Lightfoot argues that the State presented insufficient evidence to support his convictions for monetary instrument abuse, forgery, bank fraud, fraudulent and acquisition of a credit case. When issues are raised on appeal as to the sufficiency of the evidence and as to one or more trial errors, the reviewing court should first determine the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Marcantel, 2000-1629, p. 8 (La.4/3/02), 815 So.2d 50, 55 (citing State v. Hearold, 603 So.2d 731, 734 (La.1992)). This Court set forth the applicable standard of review for sufficiency of the evidence in State v. Huckaby, 2000-1082, p. 32 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/6/02), 809 So.2d 1093, 1111, as follows:

In evaluating whether evidence is constitutionally sufficient to support a conviction, an appellate court must determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); State v. Green, 588 So.2d 757 (La.App. 4 Cir.1991). However, the reviewing court may not disregard this duty simply because the record contains evidence that tends to support each fact necessary to constitute the crime. State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305 (La.1988). The reviewing court must consider the record as a whole since that is what a rational trier of fact would do. If rational triers of fact could disagree as to the interpretation of the evidence, the rational trier's view of all the evidence most favorable to the prosecution must be adopted. The fact finder's discretion will be impinged upon only to the extent necessary to guarantee the fundamental protection of due process of law. Mussall; Green; supra. "[A] reviewing court is not called upon to decide whether it believes the witnesses or whether the conviction is contrary to the weight of the evidence." State v. Smith, 600 So.2d 1319 (La.1992) at 1324.

Huckaby, 2000-1082, p. 32, 809 So.2d at 1111 (quoting State v. Ragas, 98-0011, p. 13 (La.App. 4 Cir. 7/28/99), 744 So.2d 99, 106, 107). The testimony of a single witness, if believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient to support a conviction. State v. Wells, 2010-1338, p. 5 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/30/11), 64 So.3d 303, 306. A factfinder's decision concerning the credibility of a witness will not be disturbed unless it is clearly contrary to the evidence. State v. James, 2009-1188, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/24/10), 32 So.3d 993, 996. Applying this standard, we will discuss each of the convictions for which Lightfoot contends there is insufficient evidence.

         Monetary Instrument Abuse

         The crime of monetary instrument abuse requires the transfer of a forged monetary instrument with the intent to deceive another. The State submits that Lightfoot committed this crime by negotiating Hawkins' tax refund check. La. R.S. 14:72.2 provides:

A. Whoever makes, issues, possesses, sells, or otherwise transfers a counterfeit or forged monetary instrument of the United States, a state, or a political subdivision thereof, or of an organization, with intent to deceive another person, shall be fined not more than one million dollars but not less than five thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years but not less than six months, or both.
B. Whoever makes, issues, possesses, sells, or otherwise transfers an implement designed for or particularly suited for making a counterfeit or forged monetary instrument with the intent to deceive a person shall be fined not more than one million dollars but not less than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than ten years but not less than six months, or both.

         This element was established by the presentation and negotiating of the tax refund check to Ms. Williams and signed by Lightfoot, in her presence, in the name Hawkins. Thus, we find the evidence submitted sufficient for the conviction of monetary instrument abuse.

         Forgery

         On August 19, 2016, Lightfoot went to the Credit Union with an ID and check representing himself as Hawkins. He intended to open and was successful in opening, a bank account in a name other than his own. La.

         R.S. 14:72 provides:

B.Issuing, transferring, or possessing with intent to defraud, a forged writing, known by the offender to be a forged writing, shall also constitute a violation ...

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