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City of Joplin v. Leeper

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

June 7, 2019

CITY OF JOPLIN, Respondent,
v.
JAMES MAXWELL LEEPER, JR., Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JASPER COUNTY Honorable Dean G. Dankelson, Judge

          Before Francis, P.J., Bates, J., and Scott, J.

          PER CURIAM.

         James Maxwell Leeper, Jr. was found guilty after a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Jasper County, Joplin Municipal Division, of violating four municipal traffic ordinances of the Joplin City Code. Leeper applied for a trial de novo in the Jasper County Circuit Court ("trial court"). Following a bench trial there, the trial court found Leeper guilty of violating the four city ordinances and sentenced Leeper to fines in the aggregate amount of $650, and court costs. Leeper raises six points on appeal, all of which fail. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         On December 18, 2017, at approximately 1:57 p.m., Officer Mike Larery of the Webb City Police Department, Ozark Drug Enforcement Team, was conducting surveillance on a residence in the area of 14th and Missouri in the City of Joplin. Officer Larery was three quarters of a block away (eighty-five to one hundred yards) from the residence observing an individual through binoculars for approximately fifteen minutes. Officer Larery observed that the individual had facial hair, and was wearing a "commercial made do rag" around his head, a Kansas City Chiefs pullover, and denim jeans. The individual left the residence in a "dark primer gray" Ford Ranger pickup.

         Officer Larery contacted the Joplin Police Department for an assist. He then followed the truck for a number of blocks. A check of the pickup's tags indicated the pickup was registered to a "James Leeper." After conducting a search on social media, Officer Larery was able to identify Leeper as the individual driving the pickup truck.

         Officer Larery was unable to continue following Leeper, and Officer Sam Scott ("Officer Scott"), with the Joplin Police Department, resumed following Leeper. Officer Scott was advised by Officer Larery that "there was an interest" in the Ford Ranger pickup, and the pickup had several times failed to use its turn signal.

         Officer Scott called dispatch to run the pickup's plates, which again came back registered to "James Leeper." As the pickup passed Officer Scott's vehicle, he observed that the pickup had a cracked windshield. Officer Scott caught up to the pickup and activated his lights. The pickup then turned into a private parking lot, circled around, and headed back toward the entrance. Officer Scott activated his siren when it was apparent the driver was not going to stop. The pickup then returned to the street at a high rate of speed and re-entered the roadway, cutting off two vehicles.

         Unable to safely continue pursuit, Officer Scott conducted his own internet search and found a picture of Leeper's "Tyson Food ID card that was an exact match" for the person he had seen driving the pickup. Officer Larery contacted Officer Scott, they discussed their independent identifications of Leeper, and both agreed that Leeper was the driver of the pickup. Later that day, Officer Scott issued and mailed to Leeper, at Leeper's address shown on his driver's license, citation No. 141132591 for violating four ordinances of the Joplin City Code:

WINDSHIELD AND WINDOWS, WINDSHIELD WIPERS in Violation of Ord #: 114-650
CARELESS DRIVING in Violation of Ord #: 114-173
EMERGING FROM ALLEY, DRIVEWAY OR BUILDING in Violation of Ord ...

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