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State v. Casseday

May 27, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 96-8-02831-4. Date filed: 07/31/96.

PER CURIAM. Benjamin Casseday appeals his juvenile court conviction for theft in the first degree. He contends the court erred in granting the State's motion for a continuance beyond the speedy trial date and that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction as an accomplice. Finding no error, we affirm.


Linda Doerschel owned a 1978 Malibu, which she shared with her son. The car was valued at about $1,500, with about $1,800 worth of stereo equipment installed by her son. One morning about 4:40 a.m., she awoke and looked out the window to see someone, later identified as Casseday, standing on the parking strip and peering down into the car. It was dark, but the area was well lit by street lights. In addition, there was a very bright light inside the car. Doerschel testified it was not the usual light, but a halogen type light that illuminated the inside and the person outside. When Doerschel realized the person was not her son, she opened the window and yelled at him. Casseday raised his head and looked at her directly, giving her a good look at his face. He turned and ran up the street 200-300 feet to another car, jumped into the passenger seat, and the car moved away slowly. Then Doerschel's car started up and sped away. Doerschel recognized Casseday as someone who was a school acquaintance and co-worker of her son. She went to the restaurant where her son worked and positively identified Casseday as the person she saw next to the car.

The car was recovered less than a mile from Doerschel's home and within a quarter mile of Casseday's home. The car had been ripped apart and its stereo equipment stolen. The steering column had been damaged in order to start the car. The person who drove the car away was not apprehended.

Casseday was charged with theft in the first degree. The speedy trial expiration date was June 28, 1996. Trial was set for June 25, 1996. On May 8 the prosecutor's office received a letter from Doerschel stating she would be out of town and unavailable to testify between June 14 and July 5. Apparently, the letter was attached to a packet of information Doerschel was returning to the Victim Assistance Unit of the prosecutor's office. The record indicates that the trial deputy did not discover the letter until June 10, the day he was assigned to the case. The next day the deputy noted a motion for continuance of the trial date.

Over Casseday's objection, a commissioner granted the motion for a continuance, reasoning that the state had exercised due diligence after learning of the witness's unavailability. The trial date was reset for July 16, 1996. There is nothing in the record indicating Casseday moved to dismiss for violation of the speedy trial rule.

Following fact-finding, the court found Casseday guilty as an accomplice and imposed an Option B downward sentence.


Casseday first contends the court erred in granting the continuance to a date beyond the speedy trial period. In particular, he contends the State did not exercise due diligence when it failed to take note of the victim's statement that she would be unavailable for trial from June 14 to July 5.

JuCR 7.8(e)(2)(ii) provides that on the motion of the prosecuting attorney, a continuance may be granted if the State's witness is unavailable, will be available within a reasonable time, and the State has exercised due diligence to obtain the evidence. Further, a crucial witness's unavailability for a hearing is a valid ground for granting a continuance where there is a valid reason for the unavailability and there is no substantial prejudice to the defendant. State v. Nguyen, 68 Wash. App. 906, 914, 847 P.2d 936 (1993). This court will not disturb a trial court's decision on a motion for a continuance absent a manifest abuse of discretion. State v. Adamski, 111 Wash. 2d 574, 577, 761 P.2d 621 (1988).

In this case, the court was able to examine the packet of papers in which the prosecutor ultimately discovered Doerschel's letter. On top of the letter were three other documents pertaining to damages and restitution, which the victim had returned to the Victim Assistance Unit. The commissioner concluded that these documents gave no notice of the need for a continuance and it was not incumbent upon the prosecutor to go through the "package" looking for an indication of the witness's availability. When he was first assigned to the case, the trial deputy went through the file and discovered the letter, and on the next day he moved for a continuance. Furthermore, Casseday did not show that the continuance caused substantial prejudice to his case. Under these circumstances, the court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the prosecutor exercised due diligence and in granting the continuance.

Casseday also contends there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. We do not agree.

Accomplice liability is defined in RCW 9A.08.020(3):

A person is an accomplice of another person in the ...

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