Riggs v. State, 012920 AKCA, A-12857

Docket Nº:A-12857
Opinion Judge:WOLLENBERG JUDGE
Party Name:WILLIAM F. RIGGS, Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.
Attorney:Laurence Blakely, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant. Michal Stryszak, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Kevin G. Clarkson, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: Allard, Chief Judge, and Wollenberg and Harbison, Judges.
Case Date:January 29, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Alaska
 
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WILLIAM F. RIGGS, Appellant,

v.

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

No. A-12857

Court of Appeals of Alaska

January 29, 2020

UNPUBLISHED See Alaska Appellate Rule 214(d)

Appeal from the Superior Court, First Judicial District No. 1KE-16-00344 CR, Ketchikan, Trevor Stephens, Judge.

Laurence Blakely, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Michal Stryszak, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Kevin G. Clarkson, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Allard, Chief Judge, and Wollenberg and Harbison, Judges.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WOLLENBERG JUDGE

William F. Riggs was charged with third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance (for possessing methamphetamine with the intent to deliver) after officers discovered a large amount of methamphetamine in his marine repair shop in Ketchikan. Following a jury trial, Riggs was convicted of this offense.

On appeal, Riggs argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior attempt to deliver methamphetamine to Ketchikan in 2014. Riggs also argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence that he was on probation for that prior offense at the time of the events in this case, and that he had a probation condition precluding him from having contact with his co-defendant.

For the reasons we explain in this opinion, we reject Riggs's claims, and we affirm Riggs's conviction.

Underlying facts and proceedings

On June 13, 2016, several probation officers visited Riggs's repair shop in Ketchikan. Riggs was on probation for a prior felony drug conviction, and the officers were undertaking a routine probation field visit. As the officers approached the shop, they encountered Riggs driving a car; Scott Arrington was in the passenger seat.

The officers stopped Riggs and performed a probation search of his car. In the pockets of a jacket resting on the center console, the officers found plastic baggies containing methamphetamine. (At the time, both Riggs and Arrington denied ownership of the jacket; it was later determined that the jacket belonged to Arrington.) Based on the items found, the officers obtained a warrant to search Riggs's repair shop, and probation and police officers jointly executed the search warrant.

Riggs's close friend, Charles Woolsey, was working in the shop when the officers arrived. Riggs's name was on the lease of the shop, but both Woolsey and Arrington helped pay rent. Inside a washing machine in the shop, a probation officer found twenty baggies containing over 200 grams of methamphetamine. About six-to-seven feet from the washing machine, law enforcement officers also found plastic baggies, a digital scale, vials, white residue, and plastic scoops in a box.

The police then obtained warrants to search the homes of Riggs, Woolsey, and Arrington. In Riggs's home, the police found $4, 000 in cash and four cell phones. In Woolsey's home, the police found two digital scales and several glass pipes, and in Arrington's home, the police found multiple digital scales, glass pipes, baggies, and money ledgers.

A grand jury indicted Riggs on one count of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for possessing, with the intent to deliver, the methamphetamine found in his shop.1 The grand jury also indicted Woolsey and Arrington on the same count, and indicted Arrington alone for a second count of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for the methamphetamine found in his jacket.

Riggs and Woolsey were jointly tried and convicted as charged. (Arrington's case proceeded separately.)

Litigation surrounding the admission of evidence regarding Riggs's prior offense, probation status, and no-contact condition

Prior to trial, the State filed a notice of its intent to introduce evidence surrounding Riggs's prior attempt to deliver methamphetamine into Ketchikan in 2014. In its notice, the State explained that, in 2014, law enforcement officers obtained warrants to search Woolsey's properties and discovered a small amount of methamphetamine along with drug paraphernalia. During the investigation, officers obtained information that Woolsey was distributing methamphetamine in Ketchikan and that Riggs was his supplier, having made multiple supply runs to California.

After the police learned that Woolsey was expecting a shipment of methamphetamine from Riggs via the Alaska Marine Highway System, the police intercepted Riggs and his girlfriend on the ferry. Pursuant to a search warrant, the police discovered approximately sixty-eight grams of methamphetamine in the luggage of Riggs's girlfriend, along with drug distribution supplies.

Riggs entered into a Criminal Rule 11 agreement with the State, under which he pleaded guilty to one count of attempted third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.2 Riggs was sentenced and placed on probation for two years. One of Riggs's conditions of probation prohibited him from having contact with felons, including Woolsey.

Woolsey was convicted of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and placed on probation for two years with a condition prohibiting him from having contact with Riggs.

About sixteen months after Riggs was sentenced, he was charged with the offense in this case. The State sought to introduce evidence of Riggs's prior attempt to deliver methamphetamine to Woolsey. The State argued that evidence of the 2014 incident was admissible for several non-propensity purposes, including its tendency to show that Riggs and Woolsey were jointly engaged in a drug distribution operation. The State also sought to introduce evidence of Riggs's probation status and the probation condition precluding Riggs from contacting Woolsey. The State argued that these two pieces of evidence were relevant to explaining the probation officers' presence on the scene and the search of Riggs's vehicle, as well as Riggs's willingness to risk arrest by having contact with Woolsey.

Riggs argued that the only relevance of the prior act evidence was to show that...

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