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State v. Graham

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

June 26, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
TAHJ DON GRAHAM, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Boone County, Missouri The Honorable Kevin M.J. Crane, Judge

          Before: Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

         Tahj Don Graham ("Graham") appeals from the trial court's judgment convicting him of two counts of aggravated stalking. Graham asserts that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the evidence because there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that: (1) with respect to Count I, Graham received actual notice of a full order of protection and its content, and that Graham engaged in a "course of conduct," and (2) with respect to Count II, Graham sent text messages with the purpose to harass his victim. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Graham and A.L. were in a romantic relationship that ended in July 2014. A.L. sought and obtained an ex parte order of protection from Graham on July 22, 2014. A.L. testified that she sought the ex parte order of protection because she "had received a call from [Graham] stating that he was going to put a bullet through me and my children's heads and that he was going to blow up my house and expose nude pictures of me on social media." The ex parte order of protection prohibited Graham from "[c]ommunicat[ing] with [A.L.] in any manner or through any medium." Graham was served with a copy of the ex parte order of protection on July 25, 2014.

         On August 6, 2014, the court entered a full order of protection prohibiting Graham from having any contact with A.L. The full order of protection found that, while Graham did not appear at the hearing, Graham "was provided with reasonable notice and an opportunity to participate and be heard" in that he was served with a copy of the petition, notice of the hearing, and the ex parte order of protection at least three days prior to the August 6, 2014 hearing. The full order of protection provided that Graham: (1) "SHALL NOT COMMUNICATE with [A.L.], in any manner or through any medium," including "us[ing] third parties (including children) to communicate"; (2) "shall not commit or threaten to commit domestic violence, molest, stalk, or disturb the peace of [A.L.]"; (3) "shall not harass, stalk or threaten [A.L.] or [A.L.'s] child, or engage in other conduct that would place [A.L.] in reasonable fear of bodily injury to [A.L.] or [A.L.'s] child"; and (4) "shall not use, attempt to use, or threaten to use physical force against [A.L.] or [A.L's] child that would reasonably cause bodily injury."

         Graham called the Boone County Sheriff's Department on August 26, 2014, and asked to speak with Deputy Matt Vessar ("Deputy Vessar").[2] Graham left a message for Deputy Vessar and gave a phone number at a local hotel where he could be reached. Deputy Vessar returned Graham's call using the phone number Graham left in his message, but did not reach Graham. Deputy Vessar then called (817) 300-9091, a number Deputy Vessar had previously used to reach Graham. Graham answered, and the two men had a five- to ten-minute conversation. Graham told Deputy Vessar that "he had been in the area" because "[h]e had gone to court for his order-of-protection hearing . . . and [had] taken care of all of that." Graham then told Deputy Vessar that he still loved A.L. and wanted to make sure that she was the beneficiary of his will.

         On August 26, 2014, at 5:28 p.m., A.L. received a series of text messages from the number (904) 373-9763. A.L. testified that, while she did not recognize the phone number, the content of the messages indicated that the messages were from Graham. The text conversation read:[3]

Graham: Hi
A.L.: Who is this
Graham: lied to you, I have a recording of her admitting it. Roderick listen to the recording ask
Graham: Robin Hood. I'm not trying to reconcile or contact you or anything. Just trying to get some normalcy back into my life, what's left of it. My mom trick and
Graham: him what he heard my Mom say about you I'm not trying to undermine you and force your family on me.
Graham: Just looking for peace and happiness. Your things have been return Roderick has them. Never planned on keeping them
Graham: Not trying to be in your life, but I will never break my promise to take care of u, u know I paid some bills last month, I gave u things back, I haven't
Graham: bothered u. I just want to make peace - on your terms.
A.L.: Leave me the fuck alone!!!!!!
Graham: regardless of outcome
Graham: Trying to stay true to my word. It's all I have and it's been tarnished bad. I pray for you every day, and always will. After court trial, I won't bother you
Graham: I'm not bill Thomas I won't hate or slander you
Graham: I pray for peace over your heart. Over your emotions, and I pray God himself walk you through forgiveness
Graham: I DON'T A RELATIONSHIP OR FRIENDSHIP with you just PEACE Marie
Graham: If you do nothing else on earth, listen to the video of her and I talking and she saying "I tricked her into telling me everything - then told her you were
Graham: broke and you would flip her life upside down if she didn't run"
Graham: I will fight tooth and nail legally to clear myself
Graham: I will not slander your name or speak ill at all. In nothing.
Graham: Did u get your stuff back
Graham: Your Oprah tour Atlanta tickets came in the mail
Graham: Love the back to school fashion show are you looking for sponsors? Would love to sponsor it
Graham: Would love to pray with you for peace
Graham: I won't EVER contact you just show some grace here so we don't end up in a full trial with dirty laundry aired.. All ...

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