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State v. Clay

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

September 19, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
WINSTON B. CLAY, Defendant/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 13SL-CR06312-01 Honorable Thomas J. Prebil

          OPINION

          HONORABLE MARY K. HOFF JUDGE.

         Winston B. Clay (Defendant) appeals from the judgment upon his convictions following a jury trial for three counts of stealing over $500, in violation of Section 570.030, RSMo 2000[1]; one count of attempted stealing, in violation of Sections 564.011 and 570.030; five counts of forgery, in violation of Section 570.090; and four counts of first-degree trespass, in violation of Section 569.140. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total of five years' imprisonment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant was charged with 13 total counts involving 5 separate properties, for forgery, trespassing, and stealing by deceit occurring between December 2012 and August 2013.

         With respect to the first property, located at 926 Justice Court, Defendant was charged with two counts of forgery for filing an affidavit and a mechanic's lien against the property and also charged with trespassing and with stealing by deceit over $500 for renting that property to another person (Counts 1 through 4).

         With respect to the second property, located at 11503 Rosary Lane, Defendant was charged with two counts of forgery for filing a "Possession of land and Fixtures" and a mechanic's lien against the property (Counts 5 and 6).

         With respect to the third property, located at 1028 Patience Drive, Defendant was charged with trespassing, forgery for filing a mechanic's lien against the property, and stealing by deceit over $500 for renting that property to another person (Counts 7, 8, and 13).

         With respect to the fourth property, located at 3006 Wood Poppy, Defendant was charged with trespassing and with stealing by deceit over $500 for renting that property to another person (Counts 11 and 12).

         With respect to the fifth property, located at 9585 Wilson Bridge Road, Defendant was charged with trespassing and attempted stealing by deceit over $500 for executing a lease for that property with other persons (Counts 9 and 10).

         Defendant's trial was held from August 11, 2015 to August 13, 2015. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the following evidence was adduced at trial: Defendant operated under two names: Winston Clay and Maulana Al-Hasan. Defendant stated that, after hearing about mortgage fraud in the 2000s and what banks were doing with homes, he formed Khan El Land Acquisition LLC ("Khan El Land Acquisition"), and Estate of Winston Barrington Clay Holding Company ("Clay Holding Company"). Defendant admitted that he located properties that were abandoned, "moved in on them, " and rented them out. Defendant stated that he worked with Todd Edwards (Edwards") to execute his scheme.

         Tracy Franklin ("Franklin") and her ex-husband owned the property at 926 Justice Court. In November 2011, Franklin moved out of the house after her husband had already left. In 2015, the bank foreclosed on the house. Franklin testified that she found out that someone was living in the house in 2013 when she investigated a lien against the property from the Metropolitan Sewer Department ("MSD").

         On May 28, 2013, Defendant filed a mechanic's lien in the circuit clerk's office against Franklin's home on behalf of Khan El Land Acquisition for work allegedly done on the property. The lien was signed by Al-Hasan. Franklin testified that she never gave Defendant permission to do any work on the house, nor did Defendant ask her to perform work on the house. On January 18, 2013, Defendant filed a document in the circuit clerk's office titled, "Notice of Possession of Land and Fixtures Under Claim of Right Adverse Possession for Color of Title" that purported to grant 926 Justice Court to Khan El Land Acquisition. Franklin testified that she never granted Khan El Land Acquisition the property. Franklin also received a lien against the house from MSD for approximately $500 after she had already moved out and the water had been turned off.

         Meanwhile, in December 2012, Bertha Williams ("Williams") rented 926 Justice Court, and entered into a lease that was signed by Edwards and listed Khan El Land Acquisition as the landlord. Williams testified she paid Edwards $650 a month for rent. A few months later, Franklin, who had not been living at the property, received a lien from MSD; she contacted police. In July 2013, Franklin accompanied police to her house and found people living there. Later, Defendant and Edwards also came to the house, claiming to own it. When Franklin asked about the items she had left in the property, including furniture, a computer, a grill, and a big-screen television, Defendant said "something to the effect of it's all gone."

         In December 2011, Robert and Christine Smith (the "Smiths") purchased the property on 11503 Rosary Lane. In March 2012, the Smiths moved out of the house and later in 2012, the home was foreclosed upon.

         On May 25, 2012, Defendant filed in the circuit clerk's office a document titled "Possession of Land and Fixtures Under Claim of Right Adverse Possession for Color of Title" against the property. The document was signed by Al-Hasan and listed Khan El Land Acquisition as the grantor and the grantee. ...


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