State v. Lee-Grigg

Citation649 S.E.2d 41
Decision Date16 April 2007
Docket NumberNo. 4237.,4237.
PartiesSTATE of South Carolina, Respondent, v. Rebecca LEE-GRIGG, Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
649 S.E.2d 41
STATE of South Carolina, Respondent,
Rebecca LEE-GRIGG, Appellant.
No. 4237.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard April 3, 2007.
Decided April 16, 2007.
Rehearing Denied August 24, 2007.

[649 S.E.2d 45]

C. Rauch Wise, of Greenwood, and James W. Bannister of Greenville, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Special Assistant Attorney General Amie L. Clifford, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Jerry W. Peace, of Greenwood, for Respondent.


Appellant Rebecca Lee-Grigg ("Lee-Grigg") challenges her conviction for forgery, contending the trial court erred in denying her (1) motion for a directed verdict; (2) request to charge the jury on a good faith defense; and (3) request to instruct the jury on use of evidence of good character. We reverse.


Lee-Grigg worked as the director of MEGS House, a shelter for abused women serving McCormick, Edgefield, Greenwood, and Saluda counties. In that capacity, she arranged for the relocation of an endangered victim to another state. Lee-Grigg planned to accompany the victim to assist with the transition. Initially Lee-Grigg sought financial assistance for relocation expenses from the South Carolina Victim's Assistance Network ("SCVAN"). SCVAN generally provides financial assistance to cover only a victim's expenses and reimburses mileage at less than the state reimbursement rate. Lee-Grigg found SCVAN's coverage inadequate. Subsequently, she contacted Police Chief Brooks ("Chief") of the City of Greenwood ("City") to ask for help. The City furnished a vehicle and a driver to transport the victim. Lee-Grigg accompanied the driver and the victim to facilitate the relocation on October 10-11, 2003. The City paid for fuel and lodging for the driver and victim

649 S.E.2d 46

only; Lee-Grigg's costs were not covered. Lee-Grigg testified the Chief told her she could apply for reimbursement of the expenses the City paid in relocating the victim. Lee-Grigg emphasized the Chief assured her he would not apply for reimbursement of the City's costs.

Following the trip, Lee-Grigg submitted documents to SCVAN requesting reimbursement for the City's relocation expenditures. However, she represented those expenditures as her own. Included among the materials Lee-Grigg supplied was a "Travel Support Document" with the following attestation signed by Lee-Grigg:

I hereby certify or affirm that the above expenses were actually incurred by me as necessary traveling expenses in the performance of my official duties; any meals or lodging included in a conference or convention registration fee have been deducted from this travel claim, conforms with the requirements of local and grant laws, rules and regulations.

Lee-Grigg requested mileage reimbursement in the amount of $189.23 and attached copies of fuel receipts she obtained from the City's driver to support that request. The signature of the driver and the Chief's initials that appeared on the original fuel receipts were absent from the copies Lee-Grigg submitted to SCVAN. Lee-Grigg averred she concealed the driver's signature and the Chief's initials in order to obscure any trail that might lead to discovery of the victim's new location. Lee-Grigg additionally enclosed:

• a receipt for fuel costs incurred on October 8, 2003 involving transportation of the victim from Charleston to Greenwood

• copies of meal receipts that obviously included meals other than the victim's

• a copy of a Holiday Inn receipt for $88.76, paid in full by the City's driver.

Shortly thereafter, the City's driver contacted SCVAN to inquire about obtaining reimbursement for the same relocation costs. SCVAN identified the potential duplication of reimbursement requests. A SLED investigation ensued leading to Lee-Grigg's indictment and conviction for forgery. Lee-Grigg was sentenced to two years of imprisonment, suspended to one year of probation.


(1) Did the trial court err in denying Lee-Grigg's motion for a directed verdict when the document in question was a genuine document with a genuine signature, and the State failed to prove the document in question was falsely made, forged or counterfeited?

(2) Did the trial court err in failing to instruct the jury on the defense of good faith?

(3) Did the trial court err in failing to charge the jury on the use of evidence of good character when Lee-Grigg presented testimony of her good character and reputation in the community?


In criminal cases, an appellate court sits to review errors of law only. State v. Baccus, 367 S.C. 41, 48, 625 S.E.2d 216, 220 (2006); State v. Douglas, 367 S.C. 498, 506, 626 S.E.2d 59, 63 (Ct.App.2006) cert. pending; State v. Wood, 362 S.C. 520, 525, 608 S.E.2d 435, 438 (Ct.App.2004). Thus, an appellate court is bound by the trial court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Id.; State v. Landis, 362 S.C. 97, 101, 606 S.E.2d 503, 504 (Ct.App.2004). On appeal, we are limited to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion. State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 653, 623 S.E.2d 122, 127 (Ct.App.2005). The conduct of a criminal trial is left largely to the sound discretion of the trial judge, who will not be reversed absent a prejudicial abuse of discretion. State v. Bridges, 278 S.C. 447, 448, 298 S.E.2d 212, 212 (1982); State v. Patterson, 367 S.C. 219, 230, 625 S.E.2d 239, 245 (Ct. App.2006) cert. pending.

I. Directed Verdict

Lee-Grigg contends the trial court erred in denying her motion for a directed verdict because the State failed to prove all of the statutory elements for the charge of

649 S.E.2d 47

forgery. Specifically, Lee-Grigg alleges the document in question was not falsely made, forged, or counterfeited as required by statute because the document was a genuine document that contained a genuine signature. We disagree.

When ruling on a motion for a directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 292, 625 S.E.2d 641, 648, (2006); State v. Stanley, 365 S.C. 24, 41-42, 615 S.E.2d 455, 464 (Ct.App.2005); State v. Padgett, 354 S.C. 268, 271, 580 S.E.2d 159, 161 (Ct.App.2003). A defendant is entitled to a directed verdict when the State fails to produce evidence of the offense charged. State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 593, 606 S.E.2d 475, 478 (2004) (citing State v. McKnight, 352 S.C. 635, 642, 576 S.E.2d 168, 171 (2003)); State v. Crawford, 362 S.C. 627, 633, 608 S.E.2d 886, 889 (Ct.App.2005); Padgett, 354 S.C. at 271, 580 S.E.2d at 161. When reviewing a denial of a directed verdict, an appellate court views evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the State. Weston, 367 S.C. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648; State v. Zeigler, 364 S.C. 94, 101, 610 S.E.2d 859, 863 (Ct.App.2005) cert. denied; State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 578 S.E.2d 32 (Ct.App. 2003). If there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, we must find the case was properly submitted to the jury. Weston, 367 S.C. at 292-93, 625 S.E.2d at 648; Cherry, 361 S.C. at 593, 606 S.E.2d at 478; McKnight, 352 S.C. at 642, 576 S.E.2d at 172; State v. Condrey, 349 S.C. 184, 190, 562 S.E.2d 320, 323 (Ct.App.2002); see also State v. Horton, 359 S.C. 555, 563, 598 S.E.2d 279, 284 (Ct. App.2004) (noting judge should deny motion for directed verdict if there is any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence that reasonably tends to prove the defendant's guilt, or from which guilt may be fairly and logically deduced). The appellate court may reverse the trial court's denial of a motion for a directed verdict only if there is no evidence to support the court's ruling. State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 564 S.E.2d 87 (2002).

The trial court should grant a directed verdict when the evidence merely raises a suspicion that the defendant is guilty. State v. Arnold, 361 S.C. 386, 390, 605 S.E.2d 529, 531 (2004). "Suspicion" implies a belief or opinion as to guilt based upon facts or circumstances which do not amount to proof. Cherry, 361 S.C. at 594, 606 S.E.2d at 478. However, a trial court is not required to find that the evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypothesis. Cherry, 361 S.C. at 594, 606 S.E.2d at 478.

Section 16-13-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws (2003) provides, in pertinent part:

(A) It is unlawful for a person to

(1) falsely make, forge, or counterfeit; cause or procure to be falsely made, forged, or counterfeited; or wilfully act or assist in the false making, forging, or counterfeiting of any writing or instrument of writing;

(2) utter or publish as true any false, forged, or counterfeited writing or instrument of writing;

... or ...

(4) willingly act or assist in any of the premises, with an intention to defraud any person.

Forgery consists of the fraudulent making or altering of a writing by one intending to defraud, prejudice, or damage another person. Black's Law Dictionary 650 (6th ed.1990). It has been defined as a false making of an instrument, on its face purporting to be good and valid, with a design to defraud, prejudice, or damage another. See State v. Walton, 107 S.C. 353, 356, 93 S.E. 5, 6 (1917); State v. Floyd, 36 S.C.L. 58 (5 Strob. 58) (S.C.App.L.1850).

In order to constitute forgery by uttering or publishing a forged instrument or writing the instrument must be uttered or published as true or genuine, known by the party uttering or publishing it that it is false, forged, or counterfeited, and intended to prejudice, damage or defraud another person. See S.C.Code Ann. § 16-13-10(A) (2003); State v. Pace, 337 S.C. 407, 417, 523 S.E.2d 466, 471 (Ct.App.1999) (citing State v. Wescott,

649 S.E.2d 48

316 S.C. 473, 450 S.E.2d 598 (Ct.App.1994));...

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