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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

May 23, 2017

LELBERT LOUISE WILLIAMS, Appellant. In re the Matter of Personal Restraint of LELBERT LOUISE WILLIAMS, Petitioner.

          Fearing, C. J.

         Our appeal measures the sufficiency of evidence for purposes of the State establishing the value of stolen property. We also address under what circumstances a trial court may deny a drug offender sentencing alternative (DOSA) sentence. We hold that the State lacked sufficient evidence to convict appellant Lelbert Williams of second degree possession of stolen property because the victim presented testimony of a rough estimate of value without identifying the basis for the estimate. We further hold that the trial court properly denied a request for a DOS A sentencing alternative because of the lack of any substance abuse. We remand for resentencing, however, based on the vacation of one of Williams' four convictions. We dismiss Williams' related personal restraint petition.


         The prosecution of Lelbert Williams arose from a series of furtive behavior by Williams. In May 2014, the Spokane Police Department received calls complaining of a man stalking through backyards in a west Spokane neighborhood. On May 6, 2014, one caller, Brad Dawson, observed the man carrying two sports duffel bags and possibly a screwdriver. Also on May 6, 2014, someone burglarized the home of David and Joan Nelson. Joan Nelson's brother, John Johnston, drove through the neighborhood in an attempt to apprehend the burglar. After inspecting five homes, Johnston espied a kneeling gentleman, with two duffels bags astride, employing a screwdriver to pry open a lock on a storage facility. The man fled when Johnston yelled. Johnston called 911 and tracked the fleer as the fleer scattered from yard to yard and hid in changing locations. Johnston kept contact on his cellphone with Spokane police.

         Spokane police officers arrived and apprehended the burglar, Lelbert Williams. Law enforcement officers found a duffle bag, a Bluetooth speaker, a laptop, running shoes, a jacket, and two rings belonging to Adam Macomber in the possession of Williams. Days earlier Macomber had discovered the property missing from his apartment.


         The State of Washington charged Lelbert Williams with five crimes: (1) residential burglary, (2) second degree burglary, (3) attempted second degree burglary, (4) attempted theft of a motor vehicle, and (5) possession of stolen property in the second degree. The State added the final charge near the date of trial.

         During trial, Adam Macomber identified those items missing from his apartment. The State then asked Macomber to value his stolen property:

Q. Show the jury again. Were you able to assess a value of an amount that all that property was worth at the time it was taken?
A. I could give a rough estimate.
Q. And I know that you stated there was a laptop computer.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. A mobile hotspot.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. And number of other items including your rings, the Bluetooth speaker, and the miscellaneous items you work out in, including your tennis shoes there.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. What value would you total your loss at being?
A. I would say roughly $800.

         Report of Proceedings (RP) at 278. The State presented no other testimony of the value of stolen goods. The trial court denied a request by Lelbert Williams for a lesser included offense instruction with regard to second degree possession of stolen property. The jury found Williams guilty of first degree criminal trespass, attempted second degree burglary, vehicle prowling, and second degree possession of stolen property. The jury acquitted Williams of residential burglary. Our appeal concerns the possession of stolen property conviction.

         At sentencing, Lelbert Williams requested a DOSA. He claimed he committed his last violent offense over ten years earlier. The trial court denied the DOSA on the basis that the court lacked any information of Lelbert Williams abusing controlled substances. The trial court sentenced Williams to the standard range for his crimes and ran the sentences for all crimes concurrently. Our appeal also addresses the denial of a DOSA sentence.

         This court consolidated an appeal and a personal restraint petition filed by Lelbert Williams.


         Sufficiency of Evidence

         Lelbert Williams challenges his conviction for second degree possession of stolen property. We agree that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict Williams of second degree possession and thus reverse this conviction.

         Evidence suffices for a conviction if a rational trier of fact could find each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Green, 94 Wn.2d 216, 221-22, 616 P.2d 628 (1980). Both direct and indirect evidence may support the jury's verdict. State v. Brooks, 45 Wn.App. 824, 826, 727 P.2d 988 (1986). This court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the State. State v. Partin, 88 Wn.2d 899, 906-07, 567 P.2d 1136 (1977). Only the trier of fact weighs the evidence and judges the credibility of witnesses. State v. Carver, 113 Wn.2d 591, 604, 781 P.2d 1308, 789 P.2d 306 (1989).

         The State charged Lelbert Williams with second degree possession of stolen property under RCW 9A.56.140 and .160. The former statute defines possessing stolen property. The latter statute reads, in relevant part:

(1) A person is guilty of possessing stolen property in the second degree if:
(a) He or she possesses stolen property, other than a firearm as defined in RCW 9.41.010 or a motor vehicle, which exceeds seven hundred fifty dollars in value but does not exceed five thousand dollars in value;

(Emphasis added.) RCW 9A.56.010(21) defines "value" for purposes of the crime, as: (a) "Value" means the market value of the property or services at the time and in the ...

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