Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-1-03235-1. Date filed: 07/03/95. Judge signing: Hon. Donald Haley.
PER CURIAM. Charles Newman stole and tried to sell a facsimile machine. He appeals his conviction for first degree trafficking in stolen property. He argues that a "pattern of criminal profiteering activity" is an element of that crime. But because a single instance of knowingly possessing stolen property with the intent to sell the property is sufficient to establish guilt, we affirm Newman's conviction.
On the evening of May 3, 1995, Newman knocked on the door of James Sawyers's Federal Way home. Newman asked Sawyers to call him a cab and offered to sell him $3,000 worth of power tools and a telephone/fax machine for $75. Sawyers, a liquor control agent, instead phoned the King County Police and stalled Newman by negotiating for the items. When the police arrived, they arrested Newman. After his arrest, the police located a nearby business from whom a telephone/fax machine had been stolen; the owner identified the machine.
Newman was charged with one count of second degree burglary and one count of first degree trafficking in stolen property. Following a bench trial, he was convicted on both counts and sentenced within the standard range. Newman does not appeal his burglary conviction.
Newman argues that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to sustain his conviction of trafficking in stolen property. He also assigns error to the trial court's findings of fact. Because Newman fails to support his challenges to those findings with either argument or authority, we decline to review those assigned errors. *fn1 However, this is not dispositive of our decision.
When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we must consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the State and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, the essential elements of the crime charged. *fn2 In deciding this case, however, we must first interpret the scope of Washington's trafficking statute. *fn3 Newman argues a "pattern of criminal profiteering activity" is an element of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree. The interpretation and application of a statute is a question of law that we review de novo. *fn4 Newman was charged under the state's "Criminal Profiteering Act," codified at RCW 9A.82. In particular, the court convicted Newman of first degree trafficking in stolen property under RCW 9A.82.050(2):
A person who knowingly initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages, or supervises the theft of property for sale to others, or who knowingly traffics in stolen property, is guilty of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree.
The act defines "traffic" as buying selling, possessing, or disposing of stolen property to another person. *fn5 The Criminal Profiteering Act contemplates two means of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree: (1) a person may either knowingly initiate, organize, plan, supervise the theft and sale of stolen property; or (2) may simply knowingly traffic in the stolen goods. Thus, a person who knowingly possesses stolen property with the intent to sell it is guilty of first degree trafficking in stolen property. Under the statute's plain language, a "pattern of criminal profiteering" is not an element of the crime.
This interpretation is supported by both legislative history and case law. When the legislature amended the Criminal Profiteering Act in 1985, it noted:
Generally a single commission of any one of the identified crimes constituting racketeering is sufficient to invoke all the criminal and civil penalties and remedies of the law. *fn6
Likewise, in State v. Strohm *fn7 we affirmed seven counts of trafficking in stolen property, finding sufficient evidence for each count charged. By implication, we held that separate, individual, and distinct acts of trafficking may be charged and convicted, providing there is sufficient evidence for each count.
Yet Newman argues that Strohm stands for exactly the opposite proposition. Because Strohm was the ring leader of an organized "salvage-switch" operation, Newman contends that Strohm engaged in a pattern of criminal activity, and that such a pattern is an element of trafficking. He reasons that a single act of theft and attempted sale, in the absence of a pattern of criminal profiteering, cannot sustain a trafficking charge. We reject this interpretation of Strohm. Although the plain language of the statute permits the prosecution of one who knowingly organizes property theft for sale to others, it does not do so to the exclusion of all other means of "trafficking." Rather, the statute permits prosecution for simply knowingly possessing stolen property with the intent to sell, regardless of evidence of ongoing or organized criminal activity.
Newman also asserts that the legislative history of the Criminal Profiteering Act indicates that the legislature intended to punish and deter only organized ...