People v. Singh, A154826

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtFujisaki, J.
Citation42 Cal.App.5th 175,254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Sudesh SINGH, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date18 November 2019
Docket NumberA154826

42 Cal.App.5th 175
254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Sudesh SINGH, Defendant and Appellant.

A154826

Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California.

Filed November 18, 2019


First District Appellate Project's Independent Case System, John L. Staley, San Diego, for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Eric D. Share, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Ashley Harlan, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Fujisaki, J.

42 Cal.App.5th 177

Defendant Sudesh Singh appeals from his conviction for kidnapping ( Pen. Code, § 207, subd. (a)1 ). He seeks reversal on the grounds that: (1) the trial court improperly instructed on the illegal intent or purpose element for kidnapping; (2) the court erroneously failed to instruct on

42 Cal.App.5th 178

whether his moving the victim was incidental to the crime of child endangerment in determining the asportation element for kidnapping; and (3) there was insufficient evidence of asportation and an illegal intent or purpose. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Summary of the Trial Evidence

Defendant was charged by information with felony kidnapping a one-year-old child ( § 207, subd. (a) ) and misdemeanor abusing or endangering the health of a child ( § 273a, subd. (b) ). The following is a summary of the relevant trial evidence.

The mother of the victim (Mother) testified that one morning in November 2015, she and her son waited for a bus outside of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building on Sansome Street in San Francisco. At the time, her son was nearly two years old.

Defendant approached and spoke to the child, whom Mother was carrying. Mother speaks only Spanish and could not understand him. Defendant touched her son's hand and made gestures trying to coax him off her. Defendant eventually stopped touching the child but kept talking to him for several minutes while laughing. During this interaction, the child was calm, not

254 Cal.Rptr.3d 875

crying, and not laughing at defendant's conduct. Mother told her son not to pay attention to defendant, and believed he did not. She assigned no importance to defendant or his actions, did not speak to him, and did not tell him to go away because she thought he was also waiting for the bus.

Mother stepped into the bus when it arrived, and she put her son down to pay the fare. The child did not cry as Mother put him down, and she did not notice anything that would put him in danger. At this point, defendant picked the child up and walked away from the bus.

Upon hearing her son either crying or saying something, Mother turned around and ran after him. Defendant got about five steps away from the bus before Mother yanked her son out of defendant's arms. Mother had not given defendant permission to touch her son or take him from the bus. After returning to the bus, Mother called her brother and asked him to call the police. Defendant was arrested three days later trying to enter San Francisco International Airport from the airport BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station.

Videos from the bus and from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building were played and admitted into evidence. The videos

42 Cal.App.5th 179

showed defendant's pretaking contact with Mother and her son, his taking the child off the bus, and Mother reclaiming her child. The bus footage reflected that the child began crying moments after defendant picked him up and that he continued to cry for a short time after he and his mother got back on the bus.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. He said he went to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services building that day to report to his immigration officer, though he had no appointment. He noticed the line into the building was long, so he decided to hang around until it got shorter. His attention was drawn to Mother and her son because the child was crying. Mother did not object when he made contact with the child to cheer him up. He did not know the child's age, just that he was fairly young. After the bus arrived, defendant noticed the child had taken several steps behind Mother as she was paying the fare. While Mother's back was turned, defendant reflexively picked up the child. He did so without saying anything to Mother or checking to see if the bus driver was looking at him, because it appeared the child was about to step off the bus and might fall and hurt himself. After picking up the child, he reflexively took a few steps back while trying to make sure the child was okay, at which point he noticed Mother reaching for her child. He handed the child back to her and said nothing because everything happened quickly. Defendant denied ever intending to take the child away from Mother and claimed his only intention was to protect the child. He explained he went to the airport three days later because he wanted to take a trip to Las Vegas. Defendant admitted he had been convicted of three prior felonies involving moral turpitude.

B. Instructions, Arguments, and the Outcome of Trial

For the kidnapping count, the trial court instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 1201, which required the People to prove that defendant used physical force to take and carry away an unresisting child, that he moved the child a substantial distance, that he moved the child with an illegal intent or for an illegal purpose, and that the child was under 14 years old at the time of the movement. As given, the instruction defined "substantial distance" as follows: "Substantial distance means more than a slight or trivial distance. In deciding whether the distance was substantial,

254 Cal.Rptr.3d 876

consider all the circumstances relating to the movement. Thus, in addition to considering the actual distance moved, you may also consider other factors such as whether the movement increased the risk of physical or psychological harm, increased the danger of a foreseeable escape attempt, gave the attacker a greater opportunity to commit additional crimes, or decreased the likelihood of detection." (Italics omitted.)

With regard to the child endangerment count, the trial court instructed with CALCRIM No. 823 that the People had to prove that "defendant willfully

42 Cal.App.5th 180

inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child." In addition, and as relevant here, the court also instructed that "[w]ords and phrases not specifically defined in these instructions are to be applied using their ordinary, everyday meanings." ( CALCRIM No. 200.) The court also gave instructions concerning attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, and the defense to kidnapping of protecting a child from imminent harm ( CALCRIM No. 1225 ).

During closing argument, the prosecutor contended defendant was guilty of kidnapping because he took and moved the child away from Mother a substantial distance with no right or reason to do so. He explained the requirement that a defendant move a child with an illegal intent or purpose was in place to ensure that people engaging in harmless conduct—such as a babysitter who picks up the wrong child from school, or a sibling who takes a child to a park—are not penalized. The prosecutor asserted he could not prove defendant's motivations, but regardless, defendant had no right or reason to take the victim from his mother. Defense counsel argued during closing that the only possible illegal intent or purpose that could be conjured in this case was that defendant intended to take or steal the child away. She urged the jury to reject that theory and to find defendant was trying to protect the child.

The jury found defendant guilty of kidnapping but was unable to reach a verdict on the child endangerment count. The trial court declared a mistrial as to the child endangerment count and ultimately dismissed it. The court sentenced defendant to five years, awarding him a total of 1096 days of credit.

DISCUSSION

A. CALCRIM No. 1201 and the Illegal Intent or Purpose Element

In In re Michele D. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 600, 128 Cal.Rptr.2d 92, 59 P.3d 164 ( Michele D. ), the Supreme Court held that the offense of kidnapping an unresisting infant or child requires proof that the defendant moved the victim for an illegal purpose or with an illegal intent. ( Michele D. , at p. 612, 128 Cal.Rptr.2d 92, 59 P.3d 164.) This holding was derivative of an earlier holding in People v. Oliver (1961) 55 Cal.2d 761, 768, 12 Cal.Rptr. 865, 361 P.2d 593 ( Oliver ). The illegal purpose or intent element was codified in section 207, subdivision (e) ( section 207(e) ), which provides: "For purposes of those types of kidnapping requiring force, the amount of force required to kidnap an unresisting infant or child is the amount...

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9 practice notes
  • People v. Taylor, B293881
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 6, 2020
    ...is the difference between this four-step case and the recent five-step decision about simple kidnapping in People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871 ( Singh ). As a stranger, Singh approached a mother holding her one-year-old son. ( Id . at p. 178, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871.)......
  • Unzueta v. Akopyan, B284305
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 18, 2019
    ...Akopyan, nor did Packer imply Dr. Akopyan was not insured. Rather, Packer’s statement and gesture regarding Dr. Akopyan giving Unzueta 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871 her purse were made in the context of Packer’s argument that liability requires proof of fault. Unzueta has forfeited her argument of mi......
  • People v. Nieto, F078693
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 18, 2021
    ...requires proof of asportation, i.e., proof that the defendant moved the victim a ‘substantial distance.’ " ( People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 184, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871.) Under section 207, " ‘the Legislature has ... deliberately provided that ... special types of kidnaping ... can ......
  • People v. Perez, G056047
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 20, 2020
    ...or fear against his or her will." (Id. at pp. 438-439.) This has been called the "'associated crime' factor." (People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 184.) Here, the court instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 1215, the standard instruction for simple kidnapping, which informed the juror......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • People v. Taylor, B293881
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 6, 2020
    ...is the difference between this four-step case and the recent five-step decision about simple kidnapping in People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871 ( Singh ). As a stranger, Singh approached a mother holding her one-year-old son. ( Id . at p. 178, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871.)......
  • Unzueta v. Akopyan, B284305
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 18, 2019
    ...Akopyan, nor did Packer imply Dr. Akopyan was not insured. Rather, Packer’s statement and gesture regarding Dr. Akopyan giving Unzueta 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871 her purse were made in the context of Packer’s argument that liability requires proof of fault. Unzueta has forfeited her argument of mi......
  • People v. Nieto, F078693
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 18, 2021
    ...requires proof of asportation, i.e., proof that the defendant moved the victim a ‘substantial distance.’ " ( People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 184, 254 Cal.Rptr.3d 871.) Under section 207, " ‘the Legislature has ... deliberately provided that ... special types of kidnaping ... can ......
  • People v. Perez, G056047
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 20, 2020
    ...or fear against his or her will." (Id. at pp. 438-439.) This has been called the "'associated crime' factor." (People v. Singh (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 175, 184.) Here, the court instructed the jury with CALCRIM No. 1215, the standard instruction for simple kidnapping, which informed the juror......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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