Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 93-1-03029-7. Date filed in Superior Court: June 7, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Richard Ishikawa.
Written by: Baker, C.j., Concurred by: Coleman, J., Agid, J.
BAKER, C.J. - Richard Casey, Sr., Billy Joe Casey, and Richard Casey, Jr. (hereafter Casey) appeal their convictions for theft by deception, money laundering, and leading organized crime. They argue that (1) the trial court erroneously refused to instruct the jury on a defense of good faith claim of title, (2) five convictions for theft by deception were not supported by evidence of reliance, (3) insufficient evidence supported the convictions for money laundering and leading organized crime, and (4) cumulative error denied them a fair trial. We affirm, holding that the good faith claim of title defense is inapplicable to theft by deception and that the convictions were supported by sufficient evidence.
Casey made a practice of buying asphalt and driving to private residences to ask if the owner, usually an elderly person, would like paving done. In the cases for which Casey was convicted, he offered to pave at cost, at an undisclosed reduced rate, or at a low quoted rate. Casey often
represented that he had "a little" leftover asphalt to use from another job. In at least two cases he also represented that Casey Asphalt Paving was a local business based in Snohomish. While Casey had a Washington business license and a yellow pages ad, his business phone and address were actually an answering service in Snohomish. In each case Casey either paved much more than the victim expected, substantially increasing the final price, or charged a price well above the going rate, or both. After each job, Casey escorted the customer to the bank to get an instant cash payment, immediately went alone to the customer's bank to cash the customer's personal check, or had the customer purchase a cashier's check to pay Casey before he left. In each case, the asphalt began to crumble and sprout weeds within a few months. An expert testified that the defects resulted from Casey's substandard site preparation and workmanship. During their investigation, police discovered large amounts of cash in a safety deposit box and in the purse of one defendant's wife. Evidence showed that Casey made several cash payments on his trucks during this period.
GOOD FAITH CLAIM OF TITLE
In refusing to instruct on the good faith claim of title defense, the trial court relied on State v. Stanton,*fn1 where we held that the defense is not available in a trial for theft by deception:
Before the jury can convict on such a charge, it must find that the defendant obtained control over the property of another "by color or aid of deception". Such a finding necessarily includes an implied finding that the defendant did not obtain control over the property "openly and avowedly under a good faith claim of title".*fn2
Likewise, our Supreme Court has held the good faith claim
of title defense inapplicable to a charge of obtaining money by false pretenses.*fn3
Casey questions the soundness of these decisions and argues that the Legislature intended to make the defense available in any theft case where supported by substantial evidence. He refers to RCW 9A.56.020(2), which provides that "in any prosecution for theft, it shall be a sufficient defense that the property or service was appropriated openly and avowedly under a claim of title made in good faith, even though the claim be untenable." We do not agree that this statute requires instruction on a defense of a good faith claim of title in cases where, as here, it is logically impossible to convict without implicitly rejecting any claim of good faith. A jury cannot convict on a charge of theft by deception without first rejecting any claim of good ...