State v. Nordquist, No. 35343-1-II (Wash. App. 3/11/2008)

Decision Date11 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 35343-1-II,35343-1-II
PartiesSTATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. SCOTT A. NORDQUIST, Appellant.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Appeal from Cowlitz Superior Court. Docket No: 06-1-00882-8. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 09/13/2006. Judge signing: Honorable Stephen M Warning.

Counsel for Appellant(s), John A. Hays, Attorney at Law, 1402 Broadway St, Longview, WA, 98632-3714.

Counsel for Respondent(s), George Timothy Gojio, Cowlitz Co Prosecutor, 312 S 1st Ave, Kelso, WA, 98626.

Hunt, J.

Scott A. Nordquist appeals his convictions for forgery and possession of methamphetamine. He argues that (1) the trial court lacked substantial evidence to support the forgery conviction; (2) the trial court denied him a fair trial in admitting hearsay testimony about a bank memo; and (3) his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. We affirm.

I. Crimes

Scott Nordquist possessed a check drawn on Jodi Hamer's checking account from Fibre Federal Credit Union. On July 11, 2006, he walked into the credit union and presented the check for payment, with two pieces of identification, to credit union employee Kendra Thompson. Thompson took the check from Nordquist, entered the check's information into the credit union's computer, and received an electronic bank memo alert on her computer that "this particular series of check numbers may have been stolen and to use caution when verifying the signature." Report of Proceedings (RP) at 40.

Thompson excused herself from Nordquist to compare the signature on the check with Hamer's signatures on past checks and her account card. Unable to match the signature on Nordquist's check with the signatures on Hamer's account, Thompson contacted her supervisor, who called the Longview Police Department. Meanwhile, Nordquist waited for about 15 minutes, until two police officers arrived.

After verifying Nordquist's identity, the officers took him to a room at the credit union, where they conducted an investigation. Nordquist told the officers that "he received the check from a girl named Amy." RP at 74. But after Officer Jennifer Jolly continued to question Nordquist about how he had obtained the check, he finally responded, "[W]ell, now that you put it that way, it doesn't make any sense." RP at 75.

The officers arrested Nordquist for forgery. While searching him incident to his arrest, they found a "tiny blue baggie" of methamphetamine. RP at 78.

II. Procedure

The State charged Nordquist with possession of methamphetamine and forgery. The trial court conducted a CrR 3.5 hearing on the admissibility of Nordquist's statements.

At trial, Nordquist's counsel objected twice during Thompson's testimony about the electronic bank memo alert.1 First, defense counsel objected on grounds of hearsay when the State asked, "[W]ere there any notes of significance on that [Hamer's] account?" The trial court allowed the State's question. But the trial court sustained defense counsel's second objection, ostensibly because the State's questioning called for Thompson to draw conclusions from the bank memo: after her account of the memo's warning,2 the State asked Thompson, "And why is that significant?" RP 40. Officer Jolly testified that she (1) read Nordquist his Miranda3 rights; (2) handcuffed him before Officer Monge searched Nordquist incident to his arrest; and (3) saw Officer Monge remove items from Nordquist's pockets, including a "tiny blue baggy." RP at 78. Officer Monge testified that he (1) heard Officer Jolly read Nordquist his Miranda warnings, (2) conducted a search of Nordquist's person at the bank, and (3) explained how he had conducted the search and what he had found. Nordquist's counsel did not object.

The jury convicted Nordquist of both crimes.

He appeals.

I. Forgery: Sufficiency of the Evidence

Nordquist first argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his forgery conviction because the State did not show he knew the check he presented was forged.4 This argument fails.

A. Standard of Review

Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Salinas, 119 Wn.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992). When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of evidence in a criminal case, we draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in favor of the State and interpret all reasonable inferences from the evidence strongly against the defendant. State v. Partin, 88 Wn.2d 899, 906-07, 567 P.2d 1136 (1977). Circumstantial evidence is no less reliable than direct evidence. State v. Delmater, 94 Wn.2d 634, 638, 618 P.2d 99 (1980). A claim of insufficiency admits the truth of the State's evidence and all inferences that we reasonably can draw therefrom. State v. Theroff, 25 Wn. App. 590, 593, 608 P.2d 1254, aff'd, 95 Wn.2d 385 (1980).

Credibility determinations are for the trier of fact and are not subject to review. State v. Thomas, 150 Wn.2d 821, 874-75, 83 P.3d 970 (2004). We must defer to the trier of fact on issues of conflicting testimony, credibility of witnesses, and the persuasiveness of the evidence.

Id. at 874-75.

B. Knowledge Element

The trial court instructed the jury on the elements of forgery under RCW 9A.60.020(1)(b)5 as follows:

To convict the defendant of the crime of Forgery as charged in Count II, each of the following elements of the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt:

(1) That on or about the 11th day of July, 2006, the defendant possessed, uttered, offered, or put off as true a written instrument that had been falsely made, completed or altered;

(2) That the defendant knew that the instrument had been falsely made, completed or altered;

(3) That the defendant acted with intent to injure or defraud; and

(4) That the acts occurred in the State of Washington. Clerk's Papers at 23 (emphasis added); RCW 9A.60.020(1)(b).

RCW 9A.08.010(1)(b) defines "knowledge" as follows:

A person knows or acts knowingly or with knowledge when:

(i) he is aware of a fact, facts, or circumstances or result described by a statute defining an offense; or

(ii) he has information which would lead a reasonable man in the same situation to believe that facts exist which facts are described by a statute defining an offense. Under this statute, the jury may find that a defendant had actual knowledge if it finds that an ordinary person would have had knowledge under the circumstances. In re Pers. Rest. of Sarausad, 109 Wn. App. 824, 838 n.5, 39 P.3d 308 (2001) (citing State v. Shipp, 93 Wn.2d 510, 516, 610 P.2d 1322 (1980)).

In addition, although possession alone is not enough to prove the defendant's guilty knowledge, possession together with slight corroborating evidence of knowledge may be sufficient. State v. Scoby, 117 Wn.2d 55, 61-62, 810 P.2d 1358, 815 P.2d 1362 (1991); see also State v. Ladely, 82 Wn.2d 172, 175, 509 P.2d 658 (1973) (possession of stolen property, combined with slight corroborative evidence of other inculpatory circumstances tending to show guilt, is sufficient to warrant a conviction for grand larceny); State v. Douglas, 71 Wn.2d 303, 306, 428 P.2d 535 (1967) (possession of stolen property, in connection with other evidence tending to show guilt, is sufficient to warrant a conviction for burglary). Such is the case here.

C. Evidence of Knowledge

Credit union account-owner Hamer testified that after she had been admitted to the hospital, Amy Jo Perry "took it upon herself to be in charge of my property," RP at 59, and took all of Hamer's "boxes" to keep her "stuff" safe. RP at 58.6 Hamer identified as hers the check that Nordquist had attempted to cash at the credit union. She did not, however, recognize the signature on it. She testified that (1) she did not write this check; (2) she did not give anyone else permission to write this check; (3) although she had met Nordquist "once through another friend" on July 2, she did not give this check to Nordquist nor did she give anyone else permission to give this check to Nordquist; and (4) while hospitalized the Friday after the 4th of July, she neither gave Nordquist her checks nor gave anyone permission to write a check on her account.

According to Officer Jolly, Nordquist claimed that (1) "he received the check from a girl named Amy," RP at 74; (2) "[Amy] gave him the check because she wanted him to give her a ride up to Seattle to go visit Jodi Hamer who was in the hospital,"7 RP at 74; and (3) "[Amy] went up to — that she got the check from [Hamer]." RP at 74. Officer Jolly explained her continued questioning of Nordquist about how he had obtained the check:

I confronted him over the fact that he said Amy needed gas money to go visit her friend [Hamer] in Seattle, and I asked him why she would go from Longview all the way to Seattle to get a check from [Hamer] in order to come all the way back to Longview to cash a check in order to give him gas money to go back to Seattle to visit [Hamer]. RP at 75. Nordquist then responded, "[W]ell, now that you put it that way, it doesn't make any sense." RP at 75.

It was uncontroverted that Nordquist was in possession of and presented to the credit union a check forged on Hamer's account. Nordquist's vague and disjointed explanations to Officer Jolly about the circumstances under which he claimed to have received the forged check rendered improbable his lack of knowledge that the check was false.8 This corroborating evidence of knowledge, though arguably slight, is sufficient for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Nordquist knew that the check he presented was falsely made, completed, or altered, in other words, that it was a forged instrument under RCW 9A.60.010(7).9 See Scoby, 117 Wn.2d at 61-62.

We hold, therefore, that the evidence was sufficient to prove the element of knowledge to support...

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