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State v. Hickman

January 21, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES DOUGLAS HICKMAN, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Snohomish County. Docket No: 94-1-00377-6. Date filed: 12/19/94. Judge signing: Hon. Ronald L. Castleberry.

Petition for Review Granted July 8, 1997,

Authored by Ronald E. Cox. Concurring: H. Joseph Coleman, C. Kenneth Grosse.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- James Hickman challenges his conviction for insurance fraud. He argues that the State assumed the burden of proving venue by failing to object to its inclusion as an element of the crime in a jury instruction. He further argues the evidence is insufficient to prove that element, and that we must therefore reverse his conviction. We disagree and affirm.

In February 1991, James Hickman bought a new Ford Mustang. He obtained a loan from Seafirst Bank to finance the purchase. During the time he owned the car, Hickman made a number of late loan payments. He ultimately stopped making any payments.

In June 1992, Hickman moved to Hawaii to take a job. He left his car with his roommate, Vernon Sherman, when he departed.

About a month later, Rob Litzenberger and Greg Foos went to Hawaii on vacation. Litzenberger had met Hickman in Washington and discussed with him a way of disposing of the car and relieving Hickman of his debt to Seafirst. Hickman had declined to agree to that plan. Once Litzenberger and Foos were in Hawaii, they contacted Hickman and further discussed the plan.

On the last night of their stay, Litzenberger and Foos went to a restaurant with Hickman. They discussed Hickman's car. According to Litzenberger, Hickman asked them to dispose of his car. Hickman indicated they could take it, dispose of it, and keep any proceeds. Before leaving the restaurant, Hickman threw the keys to the car on the bar and told Litzenberger that he could "drive it off a cliff."

On his return to Washington, Litzenberger went to Sherman's apartment, took the car, and drove it away. Sherman reported the car missing to the police. He also called Hickman in Hawaii to report the theft.

A Snohomish County police officer, Deputy Burnett, came to Sherman's apartment to take the theft report. Sherman reported the location of the theft as "off of Logan Road." Burnett then called Hickman in Hawaii, and Hickman confirmed that no one but Sherman had permission to possess the car.

Hickman spoke with Seafirst by telephone from Hawaii and reported that the car had been stolen while it was in Sherman's custody. The bank told Hickman that he needed to resolve his remaining debt to Seafirst.

Hickman then spoke with Balboa Insurance Company, the insurer of Seafirst's security interest in the car at the time it was stolen. Balboa is located in King County, Washington. Hickman confirmed by telephone with the Balboa representative that the car had been stolen and was recovered in a totaled condition. Balboa then paid off the bank's interest in the car.

Snohomish County police officers eventually recovered parts of Hickman's reportedly stolen car in Snohomish County. Photographs of the recovered car parts revealed that the ignition key was in the steering column. A Snohomish County detective then contacted Hickman and informed him that his car had been recovered and impounded. During an interview, Hickman admitted to the detective that he had benefited financially when the car disappeared.

The State charged Hickman with one count of insurance fraud. At trial, the defense offered the ...


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