State v. Coleman

Citation167 Conn. 260,355 A.2d 11
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Decision Date22 October 1974
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Eugene COLEMAN.

M. J. Daly III, Sp. Public Defender, for appellant (defendant).

Walter H. Scanlon, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).

Before HOUSE, C.J., and SHAPIRO, LOISELLE, MacDONALD and BOGDANSKI, JJ.

HOUSE, Chief Justice.

On a trial to a jury the defendant was found guilty of attempting to obtain money by false pretenses in violation of General Statutes § 53-360 (repealed by Public Acts 1969, No. 828, effective October 1, 1971). In pertinent part, this statute provided for a penalty for any person 'who, by any false token, pretense or device, obtains from another any valuable thing . . . with intent to defraud him or any other person.' The defendant has appealed from the judgment rendered on the verdict. Of his four assignments of error, he has briefed three and the fourth is considered to have been abandoned. State v. Croom, 166 Conn. 226, 232, 348 A.2d 556; State v. Beaulieu, 164 Conn. 620, 621, 325 A.2d 263. The assignments of error which he has pressed on appeal are that the court erred: (1) in denying his motion to set aside the verdict as contrary to the law and the evidence, (2) in denying his motion to dismiss the information, and (3) in admitting in evidence a check and a driver's license.

We consider first the claim of the defendant that the court erred in denying his motion to set aside the verdict in that it was contrary to the law and not supported by the evidence. Whether the evidence supports the verdict is tested by the summary of the evidence as printed in the appendices to the briefts. State v. Siberon, 166 Conn. 455, 456, 352 A.2d 285; State v. Hall, 165 Conn. 599, 601, 345 A.2d 17. There was evidence from which the jury could find the following pertinent facts: About 7:30 p.m. on August 15, 1970, Coleman met James H. Lee, an illiterate person, on the street in Waterbury and invited him to go for a ride. Lee accepted the invitation and Coleman drove him to the Waterbury Shopping Plaza. Coleman told Lee that he had a check and asked Lee to cash it for him. He gave Lee a check payable to Richard Cam and also handed Lee a driver's license. Lee took the check and license to a large grocery store at the shopping plaza and asked a cashier to cash the check. She asked for identification and Lee then gave her the driver's license which Coleman had given to him. The cashier recognized the check as one reported to have been stolen from Guilford Arts, of Madison, and refused to cash it. Lee then walked from the store back to Coleman's car, entered it and handed the check and driver's license to the defendant. Coleman drove to the rear of the plaza where he was stopped by police who had been dispatched to the scene upon receipt of a complaint that someone was attempting to cash a stolen check. The police arrested Coleman and Lee and searched the car. They found nothing; but, after the search, an officer observed Coleman drop something under the seat of the car and discovered there a wallet which contained a driver's license in the name of Richard Cam and a check numbered 15587 bearing the name 'Guilford Acts,' which license and check were identified by the cashier as those presented to her by Lee. A bookkeeper for Guilford Arts testified that around July 15, 1970, he had discovered some company checks and a checkwriter missing and reported this to the Madison police. He identified the check which Lee had tried to cash as being one of the stolen checks. At the trial, Lee admitted that he pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court to a charge of attempting to obtain money by false pretenses.

On this evidence, the jury could reasonably and logically conclude that Coleman was guilty as charged. They could properly infer that the attempt to obtain money by cashing the stolen check was to attempt to obtain the money by the false representation that the check was a valid check issued by Guilford Arts to Richard Cam, falsely representing by means of the driver's license that Lee was in fact Richard Cam. 'A representation may be found to be false either expressly or by implication and may consist of any act, word, symbol, or token calculated and intended to deceive.' State v. Farrah, 161 Conn. 43, 49-50, 282 A.2d 879, 881-882. They could also reasonably infer intent to defraud by the use of another person's driver's license, and infer guilty knowledge from the attempt to conceal the wallet containing the check and driver's license when the police made the arrest. Intent to defraud, which is an essential element of the crime of obtaining money by false pretenses, is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt by direct evidence but it may be inferred from the conduct of the accused. State v. Smith, 157 Conn. 351, 354, 254 A.2d 447; State v. Farrah, supra. The necessary intent may be inferred from the circumstances and from what was done by the accused. State v. Fredericks, 149 Conn. 121, 124, 176 A.2d 581.

We find no merit to the contention of the defendant that the court erred in refusing to set aside the verdict as contrary to law and the evidence.

There was also no error in admitting into evidence the check and the driver's license. Both were positively identified by the cashier as the check and the license which were tendered to her in the attempt to have her cash the check. The arresting officer also identified them as being in the wallet which Coleman attempted to conceal under the seat of his car when he was apprehended in the parking lot of the shopping plaza, and the check was identified by the Guilford Arts' bookkeeper as one of those stolen from that company. Both items were sufficiently identified to be properly admitted as full exhibits for the consideration of the jury.

The only remaining claim of the defendant is that the court erred in denying the defendant's motion to dismiss the information and to discharge the defendant 'because the state of Connecticut, in said information and in the bill of particulars, failed to charge the defendant with a crime.'

The defendant was charged in a so-called short form information as permitted by § 493 of the Practice Book. 1 This form of information was first authorized by an amendment to the 1922 Practice Book which was adopted April 6, 1929, effective September 1, 1929. The obvious purpose of the amendment was to dispense with the prolixity of common-law averments alleging criminal offenses while still assuring to an accused his constitutional right to be apprised by the state's pleadings of the essential elements of the crime with which he was being charged. State v. Beaulieu, 164 Conn. 620, 624, 325 A.2d 263; State v. Couture, 151 Conn. 213, 215-216, 196 A.2d 113; State v. Whiteside, 148 Conn. 208, 212, 169 A.2d 260, cert. denied, 368 U.S. 830, 82 S.Ct. 52, 7 L.Ed.2d 33. To afford to an accused his full rights, the Practice Book (§ 495) also provides that if an accused feels that an information filed pursuant to § 493 of the Practice Book fails sufficiently to inform him of the offense with which he is charged to enable him to prepare his defense or to give him such information as he is entitled to under the Connecticut constitution, he may obtain further information upon filing a motion for a bill of particulars and, if still not satisfied, he may seek an order of the court; Practice Book § 496; for a further bill of particulars.

The information filed against Coleman charged him with 'the crime of attempting to obtain money by false pretenses at Waterbury, on or about 8/15/70, in violation of Section 53-360 of the General Statutes.' As we have noted, § 53-360 provided a penalty for anyone 'who, by any false token, pretense or device, obtains from another any valuable thing . . . with intent to defraud him or any other person . . ..' Coleman filed an motion for a bill of particulars asking that the state make its charges more particular by stating: '1. The specific nature of the offense or offense which the defendant is charged with. 2. The time, place and manner in which this offense was committed. 3. The specific acts performed by the defendant which constitute all necessary elements of the crime charged. 4. The general circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. 5. State with particularity, the date, time, of said alleged violation and the Section of the Connecticut General Statutes violated. 6. State with particularity, the name or names, including addresses, of all persons the State alleges were involved in said violation.' In response to this motion, the state filed a bill of particulars stating: '1. On or about August 15, 1970 the defendant did attempt to obtain the sum of $87.79 from the Stop and Shop Market, Waterbury, by assisting one James H. Lee in presenting a stolen and forged check upon the account of Guilford Arts at the Union and New Haven Trust Company, New Haven, Connecticut. 2. August 15, 1970, Stop and Shop Market, Waterbury Plaza, Waterbury, Connecticut, at approximately 8:10 p.m. 3. See #1 above. 4. See #2 above. 5. See #2 above. 6. The defendant and James H. Lee.'

The defendant at no time prior to or during the trial objected to the information or bill or particulars, nor did he move for a more specific statement or for a supplemental bill of particulars as permitted by §§ 495, 496 and 497 of the Practice Book. Nor did he move to quash the information as permitted by § 499 of the Practice Book on a claim that the particulars stated did not constitute the offense charged in the indictment. Rather, on the first day of trial, the court was expressly informed that the defendant was satisfied and was not seeking any further information. 2 Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the state's case in chief, the defendant moved to dismiss the information and discharge the defendant and has briefed a claim that the court committed error in denying the motion. It is his claim 'that the State had not, by a...

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    ...his exception to the jury charge on self-defense. See Practice Book §§ 315, 854, 3060F(c)(1), (2), 3063; but cf. State v. Coleman, 167 Conn. 260, 268, 355 A.2d 11 (1974). 13 Under General Statutes § 53a-19(a), a person can, under appropriate circumstances, justifiably exercise repeated dead......
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