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State v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

September 26, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
MICHAEL LYNN ALLEN, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Perry County Honorable Michael E. Gardner

          OPINION

          Angela T. Quigless, J.

         Michael Lynn Allen ("Defendant") appeals from the judgment of the trial court following a jury trial where he was found guilty of one count of first-degree tampering, in violation of Section 569.080.[1] Defendant argues the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction because there was no evidence any part of the offense occurred in Missouri, and the trial court plainly erred in failing to give a jury instruction for the lesser-included offense of second-degree tampering. We find the trial court lacked jurisdiction to convict Defendant, vacate the judgment as void, and order the Defendant discharged.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         One evening in February of 2014, the owner of a 1986 Ford pickup truck parked his truck on the street in downtown Perryville, Missouri and walked down the street to a bar. The owner left the truck unlocked with the keys under the floor mat. When he walked out of the bar less than an hour later, his truck was gone. He walked down the street to the Perryville Police Department and reported the truck missing. The owner also had several items of personal property in the truck, including a car stereo, a new chainsaw, ratchet straps, tow hitches, and a tow chain hook. In total, the personal property was worth just over $900. The Perryville Police put out a BOLO[2] alert for the vehicle.

         Five or six days later, Defendant went with some friends to the home of Samantha and James Brummett in Knobel, Arkansas. While there, Defendant asked if the Brummetts would be willing to trade their Jeep Cherokee for a 1986 Ford pickup truck. Defendant did not have the truck at the time. A deal was made. The next day, Defendant drove the truck to the Brummetts for the exchange, but Defendant did not have the title to the truck. The Brummetts agreed to trade vehicles that day, but they insisted on keeping the title to their Jeep until Defendant delivered title to the truck. Defendant left the truck with the Brummetts and drove away in the Jeep.

         The next day, the Sheriffs Department in Clay County, Arkansas was contacted regarding the missing truck, given a description of the vehicle, and informed that it may be located in Knobel, Arkansas. Later that day, the truck was found at the Brummetts' home. Ms. Brummett explained that Defendant had traded the truck for their Jeep the previous day. After verifying that the truck was the same vehicle that had been taken from Perryville, Missouri a week earlier, the deputies seized the truck, towed it to an impound yard, and inventoried its contents. The deputies did not find any of the owner's personal property in the truck. Defendant was arrested later that day in Arkansas by the Clay County Sheriffs Department.

         Defendant was extradited to Missouri and charged with one count each of first-degree tampering, for operating the truck without the owner's permission, and felony stealing, for taking the personal property in the truck. Defendant was not charged with stealing the truck. The information alleged the crimes occurred in Perry County, Missouri. A jury trial was held, and Defendant was found guilty of first-degree tampering but not guilty of stealing. The court sentenced Defendant to a term of four years' imprisonment. This appeal follows.

         Points on Appeal

         Defendant raises two points on appeal. In Point I, Defendant argues the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the State did not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, in that there was insufficient evidence that Defendant operated the truck in Missouri, and therefore insufficient evidence to prove the trial court had territorial jurisdiction to prosecute him for the crime of first-degree tampering. In Point II, Defendant argues the trial court plainly erred in failing to give a jury instruction for the lesser-included crime of second-degree tampering.

         Discussion

         Defendant's first point on appeal challenges the trial court's jurisdiction to convict him of the offense of first-degree tampering, arguing there was no evidence Defendant ever operated the truck within Missouri, which was required for the court to have jurisdiction. Defendant does not dispute that Missouri would have had jurisdiction if the crimes were committed as alleged in the information. Rather, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing the State failed to prove the offense occurred within Missouri. We agree.

         A claim challenging the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the State failed to prove the offense occurred within Missouri attacks the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction. State v. Williams, 455 S.W.3d 1, 5-6 (Mo. App. S.D. 2013). Our review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited to whether the State introduced sufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jeffrey, 400 S.W.3d 303, 312-13 (Mo. banc 2013). When determining the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, appellate courts do not reweigh the evidence, but accept as true all evidence tending to prove guilt together with all reasonable inferences that support the verdict, and ignore all contrary evidence and inferences. Id. at 313. However, we will not supply missing evidence, or give the State the benefit of unreasonable, speculative, or forced inferences. State v. Clark, 490 S.W.3d 704, 707 (Mo. banc 2016); State v. Glass, 439 S.W.3d 838, 842 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014).

         Section 569.080 provides: "A person commits the crime of tampering in the first degree if.... (2) He or she knowingly receives, possesses, sells, alters, defaces, destroys or unlawfully operates an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor-propelled vehicle without the consent of the owner thereof." State v. Plopper,489 S.W.3d 848, 853 (Mo. App. S.D. 2016). Defendant was charged with ...


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