Dotson v. Perez

Decision Date02 June 2014
Docket NumberCase No. CV 13-3211-JEM
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California
PartiesCHARLES LEE DOTSON, Petitioner, v. TIM PEREZ, Respondent.




On May 6, 2013, Charles Lee Dotson ("Petitioner"), a prisoner in state custody, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 ("Petition"). On June 6, 2013, Respondent1 filed a Motion to Dismiss the Petition on the ground that Petitioner failed to name a proper respondent. The District Judge issued an order granting the Motion to Dismiss and dismissing the Petition with leave to amend on November 6,2013. (Docket No. 14.) On November 21, 2013, Petitioner filed a First Amended Petition ("FAP") and a supporting Memorandum of Points and Authorities ("Memo.").

On February 24, 2014, Respondent filed an Answer to the FAP. Petitioner did not file a Reply.

The parties have consented to proceed before the Magistrate Judge.


Following a jury trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court case number SA072408, Petitioner was convicted of insurance fraud by presenting false and fraudulent claims (Cal. Penal Code § 550(a)(1); count 2); insurance fraud by presenting multiple claims for the same loss (Cal. Penal Code § 550(a)(2); count 3); and insurance fraud for failing to disclose the occurrence of an event that affected a person's right to an insurance benefit (Cal. Penal Code § 550(b)(3); count 4). (Respondent's Lodged Document ("LD") E, Clerk's Transcript ("CT") at 176-78.) Petitioner admitted that he had suffered one prior serious or violent felony conviction (Cal. Penal Code § 667(b)-(i) and 1170.12(a)-(d)). (CT at 211.) The trial court sentenced Petitioner to a total term of four years in state prison. (CT at 210; LD F, Reporter's Transcript on Appeal ("RT") at 389.)

Petitioner appealed his conviction.2 (LD A.) On February 6, 2013, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. (LD C.) Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. On May 15, 2013, the California Supreme Court denied the petition. (LD D.)


Prosecution case

The prosecution's case was based on the theory that defendant established three insurance policies on the same items of jewelry, then claimed that the jewelry was stolen on one date in a burglary, and on another date in a robbery.
On August 21, 2007, Hernan Golbert (Golbert) of 18 Karat Appraisers completed a jewelry appraisal for defendant. The appraisal pertained to five pieces of jewelry: (1) a white gold diamond ring valued at $7,000; (2) another white gold diamond ring valued at $5,400; (3) a white gold diamond bracelet valued at $25,800; (4) a white gold diamond pendant and necklace valued at $1,350; and a white gold diamond Rolex wristwatch valued at $16,000.
Defendant lived in a home in Lancaster which was purchased by his brother, Mark Watts (Watts). Watts bought a homeowner's insurance policy on the Lancaster home with Wawanesa Insurance (Wawanesa). Defendant later added the two rings and the pendant to the Wawanesa policy, based on the appraisal. Defendant also obtained an insurance policy from Farmers Insurance for two rings and a Rolex watch. He obtained surplus insurance coverage with Sutter Insurance (Sutter) to cover the white gold diamond bracelet and the white golddiamond pendant. The effective date of the Sutter policy was September 20, 2007.

The September 21, 2007 burglary

On September 21, 2007, defendant was the victim of a residential burglary at the Lancaster residence. He initially reported the incident to law enforcement, but Watts, who was not living at the Lancaster home at the time, spoke with the sheriffs who came to the house. Watts didn't really know what had been stolen, so he had defendant make a list. Watts signed the list, and he and defendant had it notarized.
Wawanesa had an independent claims investigator, Carl Scholten (Scholten), investigate the claim of loss related to the burglary. On October 7, 2007, Scholten went to the Lancaster residence to investigate the claim. When he arrived, he spoke with defendant, who introduced himself as "Mark Watts" and held himself out to be Watts.
However, Watts testified that he was present at the house when Scholten came to investigate the burglary. According to Watts, he introduced himself as "Mark Watts" to Scholten, and informed Scholten that he was sick with high blood pressure and the flu, so defendant would talk on his behalf during the inspection.
Defendant showed Scholten around the house and showed him the forced entry locations. Scholten took a recorded statement, so that he could have a complete inventory. Defendant also made a personal loss claim worksheet with Scholten. Scholten prepared the list based on his discussion with defendant and the notes taken from the recorded statement. Defendant claimed that he had lost one 18 karat diamond and platinum bracelet, one 16 karat diamond and platinum ring, one 14 karat white gold diamond ring, one 14 karat white gold ring, one 14karat white gold diamond cross necklace, and two diamond stud earrings.
On March 5, 2008, defendant was examined under oath by Heather Kirby (Kirby), a fraud investigator for Wawanesa Insurance. During the examination, defendant admitted that he added jewelry to his Wawanesa homeowner's policy. The items were a diamond pendant with a chain and two diamond men's rings. Defendant was shown the appraisal from 18 Karat Appraisers, and he confirmed that the pendant and rings described on the appraisal were the items that were added to the Wawanesa policy. Defendant claimed he was not aware of any other policies that covered this jewelry.
Defendant was shown the sworn statement of loss signed by Watts on October 1, 2007. Defendant stated that the two diamond rings listed on the statement of loss were the same ones appraised by 18 Karat Appraisers. Defendant stated that a diamond bracelet, which was not covered by the Wawanesa policy, was also stolen. When he was asked why it was not listed on the sworn statement of loss, he stated that he had intended it to be there. There were other items that defendant claimed should have been listed on the sworn statement of loss, including a vase, an egg, and a Rolex watch valued at $15,000 to $16,000.[FN2]
[FN2] Kirby testified that it is customary that all stolen items, whether or not covered by the policy, should be noted when reviewing a claim.
During cross-examination of Kirby, defendant's attorney suggested that it was unclear whether defendant's testimony indicated that he was claiming that the Rolex watch was stolen or whether the stolen watch was a different watch, made by Guess. In addition,defendant's trial attorney suggested that defendant had in fact claimed that both watches were missing prior to the burglary. Kirby testified that she thought defendant stated that the vase, the egg and the Rolex should have been on the inventory of loss, but she would have to review his testimony to be sure. In addition, Kirby confirmed that when defendant was asked about the description of the bracelet that was stolen, he stated he did not know.
During the March 2008 examination under oath, defendant was asked about a claim made to Farmers Insurance and/or Sutter Insurance. Defendant stated that the claim to Farmers and Sutter did not involve the same jewelry.
Wawanesa Insurance eventually denied the claim for personal property to Watts and defendant.

The December 6, 2007 robbery

On December 6, 2007, defendant claimed that he was the victim of a robbery. Los Angeles Police Officer Erik Mejia testified that defendant came into the police station at approximately 2:50 a.m. on that date. Defendant reported that he had been robbed while changing a flat tire on his vehicle in the area of 112th Street and Compton Boulevard. Defendant stated that two individuals approached him and asked if he needed help changing the tire. When he responded that he did not, one of the individuals stuck a hard object in his back, which he assumed was a handgun, and told him "if you don't give me your money, I will shoot you." Defendant removed his jewelry and gave it to the robber. One of the robbers reached into defendant's back pocket, removed his wallet, and took a ring from his hand. In addition to the wallet and the ring, defendant informed the officer that an additional ring and a watch were taken. Defendant stated that the two rings wereworth $25,000, the watch was worth $25,000, and the wallet was worth $10. He did not mention to Officer Mejia that he had lost any cash or a diamond bracelet.
Defendant made a claim to Sutter Insurance concerning the alleged robbery. Elaine Jackson (Jackson) was hired by Sutter to investigate the claim. Jackson was aware that Sutter insured for defendant a white gold diamond bracelet valued at $25,800 and a white gold diamond pendant valued at $1,350. The two items had been appraised by 18 Karat Appraisers. The claim that Sutter received from defendant was for the theft of the diamond bracelet.[FN3]
[FN3] Jackson also explained "how and why" defendant obtained insurance coverage for these two pieces of jewelry from Sutter Insurance. Defendant explained that he toured with certain rap stars and musicians, and he would acquire jewelry through this occupation. People advised him that he should have insurance to protect himself. He informed Jackson that he had a tenant homeowner policy through Farmers Insurance, but that they would only cover a certain dollar amount of jewelry. The Farmers agent told him he would have to obtain a floater for the larger dollar amounts, particularly the bracelet.
On January 10, 2008, Jackson met with defendant at which time defendant described the circumstances of the alleged robbery. He said that the items taken from him were a gold Rolex watch, a gold diamond cluster ring from his left pinky, the bracelet insured through Sutter, and a white gold and

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