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State v. Baldwin

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District

January 10, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cass County The Honorable William B. Collins, Judge

          Before Division One: Anthony Rex Gabbert, P.J., and Thomas H. Newton and Alok Ahuja, JJ.

          Alok Ahuja, Judge

         Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cass County, Charles Baldwin was convicted of three class C felonies: stealing; tampering with the victim of a crime; and unlawful possession of a firearm.

         Baldwin appeals, challenging his convictions for stealing and victim tampering. He argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of victim tampering. He also contends that the trial court erred in convicting him of felony stealing, in light of the Missouri Supreme Court's interpretation of the governing statute in State v. Bazell, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016).

         We reject Baldwin's sufficiency challenge to the victim tampering conviction. We conclude, however, that under Bazell Baldwin's stealing offense constituted a class A misdemeanor, not a class C felony. The classification of the stealing charge as a misdemeanor has the effect of also reducing the classification of Baldwin's victim-tampering offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. We accordingly reverse both convictions, and remand the case to the trial court with instructions to enter a judgment convicting Baldwin of the class A misdemeanors of stealing and victim tampering, and to resentence him accordingly.

         Factual Background

         On Sunday, January 13, 2013, Ruby and Kevin Hobbs discovered that a Jimenez .380 caliber handgun had been stolen from their home in Pleasant Hill.[1]Ruby had purchased the handgun in December 2012 as a Christmas present for her husband Kevin. Ruby purchased the firearm in her own name because Kevin is a convicted felon, and therefore could not own or possess a firearm himself.

         January 13, 2013, was the Hobbses' first wedding anniversary. Ruby and Kevin were away from home for much of the day attending church and visiting with friends. Ruby received a call from Baldwin that afternoon. Baldwin was in a romantic relationship with Nicole Hobbs, Kevin's daughter and Ruby's stepdaughter; Baldwin and Nicole were cohabiting and had a child together.

         Baldwin asked Ruby what she and Kevin were doing, and whether they were at home. Ruby said that they were out, but would be home in a couple of hours; she told Baldwin that he was welcome to visit then. Baldwin declined, saying that he would come another time. Ruby testified that she was surprised to receive Baldwin's call, because he usually called Kevin, and had never called her directly in the past.

         While Ruby and Kevin were away from home, their neighbor Mary Clevenger heard a vehicle coming down the road playing loud music. Clevenger looked out of her kitchen window and saw a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle pull into the Hobbses' driveway. (Clevenger's description matched Baldwin's vehicle.) Clevenger saw a man exit the vehicle and walk up to the Hobbses' front door. After standing at the door for a moment the man walked around to the back of the house. At this point Clevenger stopped watching. She testified that she did not see or hear the man leave the property.

         After returning home on January 13, Ruby and Kevin noticed that there were tire marks in the snow in their driveway, and footprints leading to the front door. They also discovered a footprint between the main and screen doors at the back of their house, and footprints on their back deck. The couple did not initially notice anything in their home to be out of order. Later, however, they realized that their .380 caliber Jimenez handgun was missing from the nightstand in their bedroom. Ruby called Baldwin to ask if he had been to the house. He said that he had not. Ruby then called the police to report what had happened, including the call from Baldwin earlier in the day.

         Police arrested Baldwin in connection with the theft. Baldwin called Nicole from a holding cell after his arrest. The phone call was recorded and was admitted into evidence at trial. During the call Nicole stated that she did not know why Ruby and Kevin would suspect Baldwin. He responded: "because I did it, baby." Baldwin asked Nicole to tell Kevin that if he "dropped the charges, " he would get his gun back. Baldwin continued: "And tell him if he doesn't drop the charges, he can kiss good-bye of ever seeing his grandson."

         Ruby testified that, after Baldwin was released from jail, he returned the gun to her. He asked Ruby and Kevin to drop the charges, but Ruby responded that at that point it was out of their hands.

         Baldwin testified at trial that he and Nicole were staying at the Hobbses' house the weekend when the gun went missing. According to Baldwin, he, Nicole and Kevin were using methamphetamine while Ruby was at work. Baldwin testified that he hid the gun under the bathroom sink because it made him feel safer. He also testified that he and Nicole left the Hobbses' residence around noon on Sunday, January 13, but that he returned in the afternoon because Kevin asked him to. Baldwin testified that nobody answered at either the front or the back door when he returned, so he "took off" without entering the home. Baldwin denied removing the gun from the Hobbses' residence, but testified that, after he was released from jail, he told Kevin where he had hidden the gun.

         Baldwin was charged with four class C felonies: second-degree burglary for entering the home of Ruby Hobbs to steal a firearm, in violation of § 569.170[2](Count I); stealing a firearm owned by Ruby Hobbs, in violation of § 570.030 (Count II); tampering with Kevin Hobbs, a victim of burglary and stealing, in violation of § 575.270 (Count III)); and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of § 571.070 (Count IV). Count III alleged that Baldwin had attempted to tamper with Kevin by instructing Nicole during their recorded jailhouse conversation to advise Kevin that if he dropped the charges he would get his gun back, but that if he did not, Kevin would not be allowed to see his grandson in the future. The information alleged that Baldwin was a persistent offender based on his convictions in September 2006 of unlawful use of a weapon and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

         After a two-day trial, a jury found Baldwin guilty of stealing a firearm, tampering with a victim, and being a felon in possession of a handgun. The jury acquitted Baldwin of the burglary charge. The court sentenced him to five-year terms of imprisonment for each of the three convictions, with the sentences to run concurrently.

         Baldwin now appeals, challenging his convictions for stealing and victim tampering.



         Baldwin's first Point contends that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kevin Hobbs was a victim of either burglary or stealing, and that ...

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