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State v. Becnel

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

February 6, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JOSEPH BECNEL

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17-5773, DIVISION "J" HONORABLE STEPHEN C. GREFER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Juliet L. Clark

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, JOSEPH BECNEL Bruce G. Whittaker DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, JOSEPH BECNEL In Proper Person

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Stephen J. Windhorst, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          JOHN J. MOLAISON, JR. JUDGE

         Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence for purse snatching. For the reasons that follow, defendant's conviction and sentence are affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information on September 8, 2017, charging defendant, Joseph Becnel, with one count of purse snatching, in violation of La. R.S. 14:65.1. After pleading not guilty on September 20, 2017, defendant proceeded to trial before a six-person jury on May 30, 2018, at the conclusion of which he was found guilty as charged. On June 27, 2018, defendant was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment in the Department of Corrections. Defendant's written motion for appeal, filed pro se on the same date of his sentencing, was granted by the trial court on July 9, 2018. The instant appeal followed.

         FACTS

         At trial, the victim, Lisa Reyes, testified that on the afternoon of July 23, 2017, she and Amanda Knight, along with Knight's two children, drove to a gas station in Bridge City[1] to withdraw money from an ATM. Reyes placed $100 in cash from the ATM into her wallet, which already contained $30 in bills, and then began to put the wallet into her front pocket. As she did so, a man approached her from behind, pushed up against her, reached into her pocket, and took her wallet. As her wallet was being taken, Reyes fell through the driver's side doorway, which was open at that time. Reyes described resisting or struggling to retain her wallet and get back up. Reyes then unsuccessfully chased after defendant on foot. Reyes stated that she located her wallet the following day in the area where it was taken from her, and that only the cash was missing from it.

         Reyes positively identified defendant in court as the individual who took her wallet. Reyes further testified that upon being shown the initial photographic lineup, she narrowed it down to two individuals but ultimately selected defendant's photograph, realizing the age difference between the individuals depicted in the two photographs.

         The trial testimony of Amanda Knight largely corroborated Reyes' testimony, and she described how defendant approached Reyes and "forced her on the side of her car and pushed her up against the car and stole her wallet out of her pocket."

         Jonathan Helgason testified that on July 23, 2017, he was driving down Bridge City Avenue in Westwego, when he observed an African-American male walk behind a car in a gas station parking lot. At the time, there were two women standing outside of the car and two children in the back seat. Helgason watched the man approach the car and reach inside at the same time one of the women was entering. Soon after, Helgason heard a woman yell that her wallet had been stolen by the same man he had seen earlier. Helgason testified that one of the women in the car chased the man underneath the Huey P. Long Bridge. While Helgason called 9-1-1, the perpetrator went out of view.

         Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Daniel Carter testified that he was dispatched to the scene of a reported purse snatching. After arriving, Deputy Carter interviewed Helgason, Reyes, Knight, and Knight's two minor children. Reyes told Deputy Carter that the man who took her wallet had done so by putting his hand into her pocket and lunging forward between the car door and the car, catching her off guard in the process. Deputy Carter's search of the immediate area did not yield the wallet at that time. In reviewing the gas station's ...


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