Goodwin v. Commonwealth, 020315 VACA, 0190-14-3

Docket Nº:0190-14-3
Opinion Judge:MARLA GRAFF DECKER JUDGE
Party Name:MORGAN SINCLAIR GOODWIN v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Attorney:Duane Barron, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant. Virginia B. Theisen, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Judge Panel:Present: Judges Petty, Beales and Decker Argued by teleconference
Case Date:February 03, 2015
Court:Court of Appeals of Virginia
 
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MORGAN SINCLAIR GOODWIN

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

No. 0190-14-3

Court of Appeals of Virginia

February 3, 2015

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF AUGUSTA COUNTY Paul M. Peatross, Jr., Judge Designate

Duane Barron, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

Virginia B. Theisen, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: Judges Petty, Beales and Decker Argued by teleconference

OPINION

MARLA GRAFF DECKER JUDGE

Morgan Sinclair Goodwin appeals his three convictions for uttering a public record, in violation of Code § 18.2-168. He argues that the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that he did anything other than sign three summonses with a false name. The appellant suggests that his actions did not constitute utterings under Virginia law because the evidence failed to prove that he acted with the "purpose of obtaining the [object] mentioned" in the summonses. We hold that the evidence was sufficient to prove that the appellant uttered public records. Specifically, the record supports the conclusion that the appellant, through his actions, asserted that his false signatures on the summonses were good and valid. These actions were sufficient to prove uttering. Therefore, we affirm the convictions.

I. BACKGROUND

On appeal of a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court views the record in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party at trial. Stevenson v. Commonwealth, 258 Va. 485, 488, 522 S.E.2d 368, 368 (1999); Henry v. Commonwealth, 63 Va.App. 30, 35, 753 S.E.2d 868, 870 (2014). To do so, we "'discard all evidence of the accused that conflicts with that of the Commonwealth.'" Henry, 63 Va.App. at 37, 753 S.E.2d at 871 (quoting Holcomb v. Commonwealth, 58 Va.App. 339, 346, 709 S.E.2d 711, 714 (2011)). The Court also accepts as true all the credible evidence favorable to the prosecution as well as all fair inferences in support of the conviction that may be drawn from the record. Id. Viewed under this standard, the evidence is as follows.

On November 8, 2012, Deputy Scott Craig of the Augusta County Sheriff's Department stopped the appellant's vehicle for a speeding violation. Before Deputy Craig approached the automobile, the appellant, who was driving, got out of the car. The appellant turned, placed his hands behind his back, and announced that he did not have a driver's license.

The deputy assured him that driving without a license did not necessarily warrant an arrest. The appellant identified himself as Christopher Venable, stated that he was from New York, and provided Deputy Craig with a date of birth and social security number. Due to technical difficulties with equipment, Craig was unable to verify the out of state information with dispatch.

The deputy issued three summonses to the appellant in the name of Christopher Venable for speeding, driving without an operator's license, and failure to wear a seatbelt. The appellant signed the summonses as "Christopher Venable" and returned them to Deputy Craig. He signed each document below two pre-printed sentences: "I promise to appear at the time and place shown above, signing this summons is not an admission of guilt. I certify that my current mailing address is as shown below." Two of the documents included "checked" boxes informing the recipient that he could avoid going to court if he followed the accompanying instructions.

Over a month later, Deputy Craig learned the appellant's true identity. The appellant had represented himself as Christopher Venable during a separate encounter with Officer Robert Dean of the Waynesboro Police Department. When Dean saw the name Christopher Venable on a recent record, he contacted Deputy Craig and provided the deputy with the appellant's actual name.

At the completion of the Commonwealth's case, the appellant moved to strike the uttering charges, alleging that the evidence was insufficient to support them. He argued that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he sought to obtain an "object mentioned in the [forged] writing." The court denied the motion. During closing arguments, the appellant renewed the motion. The trial court again denied the motion, holding that the forgeries were "the signature[s] of Christopher Venable." The court further explained that the appellant "intended to have the officer believe that" he was Christopher Venable "and handed [them] back with that false impression" and "that was the object of his uttering."

The court convicted the appellant of three counts of uttering a public record, in violation of Code § 18.2-168.1 He was sentenced to a total of nine...

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