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State v. Rodney

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 23, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
STEVEN RODNEY

          ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17-7492, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE JUNE B. DARENSBURG, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Gail D. Schlosser Zachary P. Popovich Joshua K. Vanderhooft

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, STEVEN RODNEY Jane L. Beebe

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Robert A. Chaisson, and John J. Molaison, Jr.

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE

         Defendant, Steven Rodney, appeals his conviction and sentence for armed robbery. He specifically challenges the trial court's admission of other crimes evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him. For the reasons that follow, we find no merit to defendant's arguments, and accordingly, we affirm his conviction and sentence.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 1, 2017, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant with armed robbery, in violation of La. R.S. 14:64. Defendant pled not guilty at his arraignment. Following the resolution of some pre-trial motions, the matter proceeded to trial before a twelve-person jury on December 11, 2018. At the conclusion of the trial on December 13, 2018, the jury found defendant guilty as charged. Defendant thereafter filed a motion for acquittal notwithstanding the verdict and a motion for new trial, alleging in both that the State was unable to meet its burden of proof as to armed robbery. On December 26, 2018, the trial court denied defendant's motions.

         On January 8, 2019, the trial court sentenced defendant to twelve years imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The court ordered that the sentence be served concurrently with any other sentence defendant may be serving, including any time in federal custody. Defendant now appeals.

         FACTS

         On March 7, 2014, at approximately 8:30 p.m., defendant entered the Walmart located on West Esplanade in Kenner and robbed Brittney Young, who, at the time, was working as a customer service cashier. Sergeant Jeff Adams of the Kenner Police Department investigated the robbery. Through the course of his investigation, Sergeant Adams learned that the perpetrator, later identified as defendant, arrived at the Walmart in a Nissan SUV taxicab, entered the store, and after a few minutes of posing as a shopper, approached the customer service desk with a bag of candy. While standing at the service desk talking to Ms. Young, defendant, who was wearing a striped sweater and a Saints cap, pulled up his shirt, revealed a weapon in his waistband, and demanded the money from the register.[1]He then pulled out the gun and pointed it towards Ms. Young, who gave him money from the cash register, totaling approximately thirteen hundred dollars. Thereafter, defendant, who had put the weapon back into his waistband, ordered Ms. Young to follow him to the exit where he fled the premises in the SUV taxicab waiting for him in the parking lot.

         Although Ms. Young gave a physical description of the perpetrator and his image was captured on video surveillance, Sergeant Adams was not able to immediately identify the suspect. However, during the course of his investigation, Sergeant Adams was informed of a Nola.com article regarding a robbery that had occurred at a retail store in New Orleans the previous day and contained a picture of the suspect, which matched the description of the suspect in the instant armed robbery. The name of the suspect from the New Orleans robbery was also unknown.[2]

         Sergeant Adams was later contacted by a detective from the New Orleans Police Department who had received information that Steven Rodney had been arrested in Las Vegas for similar robberies. Apparently, defendant had been arrested and pled guilty on April 22, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada, to nine counts of robbery of various stores that occurred in February and March of 2014 using the same modus operandi as the Louisiana armed robberies. Sergeant Adams explained that in the Las Vegas robberies, defendant would arrive in a taxicab, enter the store posing as a customer, produce a gun, and demand the cash from the register. Additionally, Sergeant Adams noted that the Kenner Walmart robbery was listed as relevant conduct in defendant's plea agreement pertaining to the Las Vegas robberies. [3]

         Having acquired the suspect's name, Sergeant Adams obtained a photograph of defendant and compared it to the picture taken from the video surveillance of the Walmart robbery. Sergeant Adams thereafter compiled a photographic lineup and presented it to Ms. Young, who positively identified defendant as her assailant. Defendant was ultimately arrested and extradited back to Louisiana from Nevada on March 29, 2017.

         At trial, defendant testified on his own behalf and admitted that he committed the robbery at the Kenner Walmart, as well as the New Orleans and Las Vegas robberies. He explained that he had a series of personal hardships, including a back injury, and that as a result, he became addicted to pain medication. Defendant thereafter began to commit robberies of various stores in order to get money to support his addiction. He maintained that he never used a real gun during any of the robberies, but rather committed many of the robberies, including the one at the Kenner Walmart, with ...


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