State v. Stucker, s. 96-075

Decision Date28 January 1999
Docket Number96-356,Nos. 96-075,s. 96-075
Citation293 Mont. 123,973 P.2d 835
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Dennis Wayne STUCKER, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

David E. Stenerson, Attorney at Law, Hamilton, Montana, for Appellant.

Honorable Joseph P. Mazurek, Attorney General; Pamela P. Collins, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana; George H. Corn, County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana; John P. Connor, Jr., Assistant Attorney General and Special Deputy County Attorney, Helena, Montana, for Respondent.

Chief Justice J.A. TURNAGE delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Dennis Wayne Stucker (Stucker) appeals his conviction before the Twenty-first Judicial District Court, Ravalli County, of obstructing justice by accountability. Stucker also appeals that court's revocation of his deferred sentence upon a finding of probation violations. We affirm.

ISSUES

¶2 1. Was there sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the jury's verdict that Stucker was guilty of the offense of obstruction of justice by accountability?

¶3 2. Was Stucker denied a fair trial as a result of the admission of the testimony of Calvin Greenup regarding the goals and beliefs of the members of the Ravalli County militia movement?

¶4 3. Did the District Court err in denying Stucker's motion to suppress evidence discovered by Stucker's probation officers during a search of his home on the grounds that there was no reasonable basis for the search?

BACKGROUND

¶5 Stucker was charged by Information before the Twenty-first Judicial District Court, Ravalli County, with the offense of obstruction of justice by accountability, a felony, pursuant to § 45-7-303(2)(c) and § 45-2-302, MCA. The Information alleged that Stucker knowingly aided and abetted in the commission of the offense of obstruction of justice by participating in the efforts of Scott Greenup, Pete Miller and Ben Schneider to provide means of avoiding discovery or apprehension to Calvin Greenup (Calvin), a known offender. A jury trial was held, and Stucker was found guilty as charged.

¶6 The events which culminated in Stucker's conviction for obstruction of justice by accountability occurred on the evening of April 12, 1995, at Calvin's ranch home near Darby, Montana. Stucker, who had become acquainted with the Greenup family in March 1995, arrived at the Greenup home on April 12th at the behest of Calvin's son, Scott Greenup (Scott). Sometime earlier that day, Scott had telephoned Stucker to request his assistance in transporting Calvin and the Greenup family from the ranch. Scott explained to Stucker that his family believed a raid by law enforcement officers was imminent and that they were in fear for their lives if they remained in the area.

¶7 Stucker arrived at the Greenup home at approximately 10:30 p.m. in a four-wheel drive pick-up truck outfitted with a camper top. Scott met him at the foot of the driveway. Stucker backed his vehicle up to the door of the Greenups' house and several people, including Stucker, began loading camping gear, firearms and ammunition into the back of the vehicle. Scott had instructed the party to move quickly, as there were people waiting to meet them at the top of Lost Trail Pass near the Idaho border.

¶8 Once the vehicle was loaded, Calvin, Calvin's wife Linda, Lynne and Pete Miller, and the Miller children positioned themselves in the back of Stucker's pick-up along with the loaded gear. Scott joined Stucker in the cab of the vehicle, and the party proceeded south down Highway 93 toward the Idaho border. Stucker's vehicle was accompanied en route by two or three other vehicles occupied by friends and supporters of the Greenup family.

¶9 At the top of Lost Trail Pass, Stucker stopped his vehicle and his passengers alighted. Waiting at this point were two new vehicles into which the cargo from Stucker's truck was transferred. The Greenups and the Millers were also transferred to the waiting vehicles. The newly loaded vehicles then departed, thus successfully transporting the Greenups and Millers over the border into Idaho. Scott, Stucker, and the rest of the escort party returned home.

¶10 Outstanding arrest warrants had been issued against several members of the departing party prior to their flight out of Montana: a warrant against Calvin had been issued for operation of a game farm without a license; a warrant against Lynne Miller had been issued for obstructing a peace officer; and a warrant against Pete Miller had been issued for intimidation. There was also an outstanding arrest warrant against Scott ¶11 At the sentencing hearing before the District Court, Stucker was sentenced to a deferred sentence of six years imprisonment. His probationary period was made subject to a number of conditions, including the prohibition of possession of firearms or other deadly weapons. On April 16, 1996, the Adult Probation and Parole Division of the Department of Corrections and Human Services filed a report of probation violation alleging that a catalog of various firearms and ammunition had been found at Stucker's residence during a search by probation officers.

for bail jumping, although Scott did not depart the State with the rest of his family on April 12th. The jury found that Stucker had been aware of the existence of the warrant against Calvin and subsequently convicted him of obstruction of justice by accountability for assisting with the removal of Calvin and the rest of the party into a neighboring jurisdiction.

¶12 A hearing was held before the District Court at which Stucker appeared represented by counsel. Stucker filed a motion to suppress the evidence produced during the probationary search on the grounds that the search was unreasonable. The District Court denied Stucker's motion and found Stucker in violation of the conditions of his probation. The District Court entered a judgment revoking Stucker's deferred sentence, imposing a ten-year suspended sentence, and modifying the terms of Stucker's probation.

¶13 Stucker appeals both his conviction and the ruling of the District Court denying his motion to suppress evidence at the revocation hearing. At the direction of this Court, the appeals were consolidated for briefing, and both will be addressed here.

DISCUSSION

¶14 Was there sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the jury's verdict that Stucker was guilty of the offense of obstruction of justice by accountability?

¶15 We review a District Court's conclusions of law to determine if they are correct. State v. Ahmed (1996), 278 Mont. 200, 207, 924 P.2d 679, 683. We review the sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury verdict in a criminal case to determine whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Lantis, 1998 MT 172, p 32, 962 P.2d 1169, p 32, 55 St.Rep. 694, p 32.

¶16 Stucker was convicted of obstruction of justice by accountability pursuant to § 45-7-303(2)(c) and § 45-2-302(3), MCA. The relevant portions of § 45-7-303(2)(c), MCA, read as follows:

(1) For the purpose of this section "an offender" means a person who has been or is liable to be arrested, charged, convicted, or punished for a public offense.

(2) A person commits the offense of obstructing justice if, knowing a person is an offender, he purposely:

...

(c) provides an offender with money, transportation, weapon, disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension....

Section 45-2-302(3), MCA, states, in relevant part, that legal accountability for the conduct of another exists when "either before or during the commission of an offense with the purpose to promote or facilitate such commission, he solicits, aids, abets, agrees, or attempts to aid such other person in the planning or commission of the offense."

¶17 Stucker contends that insufficient evidence was presented at trial to allow a rational trier of fact to find him guilty of obstruction of justice by accountability because there was no evidence showing that members of the Greenup party fled Montana on the night of April 12th in an effort to avoid apprehension by law enforcement. In support of this contention, Stucker relies on the testimony of the Ravalli County Sheriff that although arrest warrants had been issued, he had made no attempt to arrest any member of the Greenup party because of the possibility that such a confrontation could lead to an armed engagement and subsequent loss of life. It is Stucker's position that because no arrest attempt had been made, the State failed to demonstrate that the aid given to the Greenup party constituted a means of avoiding either apprehension or discovery.

¶18 We find Stucker's argument contrary to law. As pointed out by the State, § 45-7-303(2), MCA, does not require direct interference with an arrest attempt before obstruction can occur. Stucker cites no precedent supporting his position that this kind of action is required, and we decline to inject such a prerequisite into the clear language of the statute. So long as the offender is liable to be arrested and the aid received constitutes money, transportation, weapon, disguise or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension, obstruction of justice can occur, notwithstanding the lack of any attempt by law enforcement officials to exercise an existing warrant.

¶19 The evidence at trial clearly demonstrated that a warrant for Greenup's arrest was outstanding on the evening of April 12. Furthermore, the assistance provided to Calvin and the other members of the party was that of transportation, a form of assistance expressly defined by the statute as a possible means of avoiding discovery or apprehension. Because there is sufficient evidence to support the verdict of a rational trier of fact that the events of April 12th were in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 cases
  • U.S. v. Stokes
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 15, 2002
    ...cause" standard as being "substantially less than the probable cause standard under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Stucker, 293 Mont. 123, 973 P.2d 835, 841 (1999). On December 23, 1999, Stokes and a co-worker at the casino, Luke Hayes, took an outdoor cigarette break together. Hayes knew ......
  • U.S. v. Stokes, 01-30170.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 15, 2002
    ...cause" standard as being "substantially less than the probable cause standard under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Stucker, 293 Mont. 123, 973 P.2d 835, 841 (1999). On December 23, 1999, Stokes and a co-worker at the casino, Luke Hayes, took an outdoor cigarette break together. Hayes knew ......
  • State v. Potter
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 18, 2008
    ...of the jury to weigh the evidence based on the credibility of the witnesses and determine which version of events should prevail." State v. Stucker, 1999 MT 14, ¶ 22, 293 Mont. 123, ¶ 22, 973 P.2d 835, ¶ ¶ 31 At trial, Dr. Beth E. Thompson, who directed the victim's care at the hospital, te......
  • State v. Vainio, 00-469.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 7, 2001
    ...in this case formed a criminal act. Therefore, we review the District Court's conclusions of law to determine if they are correct. State v. Stucker, 1999 MT 14, ¶ 15, 293 Mont. 123, ¶ 15, 973 P.2d 835, ¶ 15 (citing State v. Ahmed (1996), 278 Mont. 200, 207, 924 P.2d 679, 683, cert denied, A......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT