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In re Landon G.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

October 30, 2013

IN RE: LANDON G.

Meredith, Woodward, Pierson, W. Michel (Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION

WOODWARD, J.

On December 23, 2009, the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, sitting as a juvenile court, found appellant, Landon G., a juvenile, involved in the delinquent acts[1] of criminal possession of stolen property, in violation of Maryland Code (2002), § 7-104(c) of the Criminal Law Article ("C.L."); unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in violation of C.L. § 7-203; motor vehicle theft, in violation of C.L. § 7-105; and related offenses. Appellant was adjudicated a delinquent and subsequently placed on probation under the supervision of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $120.

On appeal, appellant presents one question for our review, [2] which we have rephrased and divided into three questions to facilitate our analysis:

I. Was there sufficient evidence to support the finding of appellant's involvement in the crime of criminal possession of stolen property, in violation of C.L. § 7-104(c)?
II. Was there sufficient evidence to support the finding of appellant's involvement in the crime of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in violation of C.L. § 7-203?
III. Was there sufficient evidence to support the finding of appellant's involvement in the crime of motor vehicle theft, in violation of C.L. § 7-105?

For the reasons set forth herein, we shall affirm the judgment of the trial court.

BACKGROUND

At the adjudicatory hearing on December 23, 2009, the following evidence was adduced.

On September 17, 2009, Wendy Pittman notified the police that her four-door 2006 Honda Accord had been stolen from where it was parked in the front of her home. Pittman had not given anyone permission to use her vehicle and did not see who took it.

In the afternoon of September 26, 2009, Pittman was driving home from church when she observed her stolen vehicle make a right turn out of a Shell gas station onto Oxon Hill Road in Prince George's County. Pittman immediately called 911 to report that she had spotted her vehicle. Pittman then followed the vehicle for about thirty to forty-five minutes prior to the arrival of the Prince George's County police. She testified that at one point the vehicle went into the Maplewood subdivision and parked; the occupants then went into a house. Later, when the occupants exited the house and left in the vehicle, Pittman began to follow the vehicle again.

Officer Joseph Keifline and his partner, Officer Horne, [3] of the Prince George's County Police Department received the 911 report, responded to the area, and observed the Honda being followed by Pittman in a black BMW. The officers, who were in a marked patrol car, followed the Honda into a cul-de-sac, at which point the officers activated the patrol car's emergency lights. Officer Keifline testified that the stolen vehicle "made a U-turn" in the cul-de-sac and "headed towards [the] police cruiser." The vehicle then drove through the front yards of several residences and came to a stop. At that point, five individuals, including appellant, got out of the vehicle and fled on foot.[4] According to Officer Keifline, they "ran through the yard, over the fence, into the next street." The vehicle was left in gear and continued to move forward until it hit a telephone pole.

Officer Horne got out of the patrol car and chased appellant and the four other individuals on foot. Officer Keifline, meanwhile, drove around the neighborhood in the patrol car and in about two or three minutes apprehended appellant and Patrick McB. ("Patrick"), the driver of the vehicle.[5] Later, when Pittman recovered the vehicle, it was being operated with the keys. Pittman also testified that on the day that her car was taken, September 17, 2009, the car had a value of $22, 000.

At the adjudicatory hearing, Patrick testified on behalf of the defense that, on September 26, 2009, he was walking to the barbershop when an individual named " JJ" pulled up in a Honda Accord and offered to lend the vehicle to Patrick.[6] Patrick accepted the offer. According to Patrick, the vehicle was being operated with the keys when he obtained it from J J.

Thereafter, Patrick picked up appellant. Patrick testified that his family and appellant's family "have been friends for as long as we can remember." Appellant knew that Patrick did not own a car. Patrick testified that, when appellant entered the vehicle, the following conversation took place:

I told [appellant] that I got the car from this guy I knew around the neighborhood. And I think [appellant] asked me, was it stolen. I said, no, because the keys, and I told him that it was his [JJ's] vehicle, and we were just going to go to our friend's house, and we'll back [sic], drop them off

After appellant got in the vehicle, Patrick picked up three more people. Patrick drove the vehicle for "45 minutes to an hour" before he noticed that he was being followed by a police car. On cross-examination, Patrick testified that he attempted to evade the police officers and that he and appellant ultimately fled from the vehicle on foot:

[THE PROSECUTOR]: . . . And you see the police coming up upon you. And, even though you've got this car and it's yours' [sic] to use, you try to evade them?
[PATRICK]: Yes. Because, at that time, after I noticed the police car, everything started running through my mind. I assumed that [the vehicle] had to have been stolen, because why else would, you know, would [the police] be trying to stop me?
[THE PROSECUTOR]: Okay. And you did try to evade the police?
[PATRICK]: Yes, sir.
* * *
[THE PROSECUTOR]: . . . And [both you and appellant] fled and jumped over fences to get away from the police?
[PATRICK]: Yes, sir. Appellant did not testify at his trial.

Appellant was charged, as a juvenile, with nine separate theft-related and malicious destruction offenses: motor vehicle theft, in violation of C.L. § 7-105 (Count 1); criminal possession of stolen property with a value of $500 or more, in violation of C.L. § 7-104(c) (Count 2); criminal possession of stolen property with a value of $500 or less, in violation of C.L. § 7-104(c) (Count 3); unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in violation of C.L. § 7-203 (Count 4); tampering with a motor vehicle without the consent of its owner, in violation of Maryland Code (1977, 2009 Repl. Vol.), § 14-104(a) of the Transportation Article (Count 5); malicious destruction of property in excess of $500, in violation of C.L. § 6-301 (Count 6); malicious destruction of property not exceeding $500, in violation of C.L. § 6-301 (Count 7); conspiracy to commit motor vehicle theft, in violation of Maryland common law (Count 8); and conspiracy to commit criminal possession of stolen property with a value of $500 or more, in violation of Maryland common law (Count 9).

At the conclusion of the December 23, 2009 trial, the trial court found appellant involved on all counts, with the exception of Count 5, the unlawful tampering with a motor vehicle. The trial judge merged Counts 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 into Count 1 (motor vehicle theft), and merged Count 9 into Count 8 (conspiracy to commit motor vehicle theft).[7] The court placed appellant on an indefinite period of supervised probation and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $120 to Pittman.[8]

This timely appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Our standard of review for sufficiency of trial evidence is whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt when the evidence is presented in the light most favorable to the State." Bible v. State, 411 Md. 138, 156 (2009) (quotation marks omitted). "This same standard of review applies in juvenile delinquency cases. In such cases, the delinquent act, like the criminal act, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt." In re Timothy F., 343 Md. 371, 380 (1996) (citation omitted).

We are cognizant of the principle that the fact-finder "possesses the ability to choose among differing inferences that might possibly be made from a factual situation and [the appellate court] must give deference to all reasonable inferences [that] the fact-finder draws, regardless of whether [the appellate court] would have chosen a different reasonable inference." Bible, 411 Md. at 156 (alterations in original) (quotation marks omitted); see also State v. Smith, 374 Md. 527, 534 (2003) ("We give due regard to the [fact-finder's] findings of facts, its resolution of conflicting evidence, and, significantly, its opportunity to observe and assess the credibility of witnesses." (alteration in original) (quotation marks omitted)). "If the evidence either showed directly, or circumstantially, or supported a rational inference of facts which could fairly convince a trier of ...


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