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State v. Knox

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

November 12, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
RODNEY KNOX, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1722-CR01577 Honorable Clinton R. Wright.

          Robin Ransom, J.

          OPINION

         Rodney Knox ("Knox") appeals from the trial court's sentences and judgment of conviction following a jury verdict finding him guilty of one count of felony stealing and two counts of misdemeanor stealing. Knox argues the trial court erred in entering a judgment on Count I that incorrectly denominated his conviction, in imposing sentences on Counts III and V that exceeded the statutory maximum, and in entering judgment on Count I that was not supported by sufficient evidence. We reverse, enter convictions on the lesser-included offenses, and remand for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

         Background

         The State charged Knox with three counts of robbery in the first degree, three associated counts of armed criminal action, and one count of resisting arrest[1] stemming from an incident that occurred on January 13, 2017. The following evidence was adduced at trial.

         Jabari Turner ("Victim") testified to the following. On January 13, 2017, he was at his apartment with three friends. A man with whom he was familiar and whose name he later discovered was Dion knocked on his door, asking for a marijuana joint, which Victim provided for free. Shortly thereafter, there was another knock on the door, and when Victim answered it, Dion and three other men pushed their way into the apartment holding guns and with their faces covered. The intruders had Victim and two of his three friends lie on the floor while the intruders searched the apartment and went through the victims' pockets. Victim had his rent money of $1, 200.00 in his pocket. The intruders left after about three minutes with bags, a laptop computer, a Playstation controller, cellular telephones, headphones, a speaker, marijuana, and a Versace belt. Victim called the police, who shortly thereafter apprehended two of the suspects. At the scene, Victim identified Knox as one of the four men who entered his apartment, and Victim stated Knox was holding a black and silver handgun during the robbery. Victim identified several of the items found in Knox's possession upon his arrest as having been stolen during the robbery.

         Sergeant Adam Duke ("Sergeant Duke") and Officer Joseph Pierce ("Officer Pierce") of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department testified to the following. They received a call about a robbery in progress and were able to respond in less than one minute. Shortly after Sergeant Duke entered the lobby of the building, the elevator doors opened and four men exited. The four men had their faces covered and were carrying large bags hastily stuffed with numerous items, and one individual had headphones and a designer belt around his neck. Sergeant Duke identified himself as a police officer and ordered them to stop but, instead, the men dropped the items they were carrying and ran. Officer Pierce was outside the building and immediately apprehended one individual, later identified as Knox. Sergeant Duke apprehended another suspect later identified as Donnoven Williams. Upon his arrest, Knox informed the officers that he had a handgun in his pocket. A search of Knox's person revealed $1, 570 in sorted U.S. currency, a watch belonging to one of the victims, a designer belt draped around his neck, a wireless Bluetooth speaker, and a pair of headphones.

         Knox testified in his own defense to the following. He joined his uncles Dion and Donnoven Williams and a friend of theirs to buy marijuana from Victim, and Knox gave Dion $200.00 for the intended purchase. All four entered the building, but Knox waited on a different floor of the building while the three others went to Victim's apartment on the fifth floor. After waiting awhile, Knox went to the fifth floor where he saw Dion, Donnoven, and their friend exiting Victim's apartment with bags in their hands, their faces covered, and walking quickly. In the elevator items were falling out of the bags, and Donnoven told Knox to pick up the fallen items, so Knox put what he could in his pockets. When they got off the elevator, a police officer told them to stop; while the others ran, Knox did not because he was unaware the others had committed a robbery. Knox explained to the police he always carried a firearm, which was registered to him, because he had previously been robbed. He also explained he had been carrying his life savings of $1, 700.00 in cash[2] in his pocket that day, because his mother was a heroin addict and he did not want to leave his money at home where she might take it.

         The jury convicted Knox on Count I of felony stealing and on Counts III and V of misdemeanor stealing and found him not guilty on Counts II, IV, and VI: the three associated charges of armed criminal action. The State noted that Count I, felony stealing, was a class D felony with a range of punishment of up to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections; and that Counts III and V, misdemeanor stealing, had a range of punishment from one day up to one year in jail and/or a fine. The judgment denominated Count I as the "class C felony" of "stealing over $500," upon which the trial court sentenced Knox to five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections but suspended the execution of sentence and placed him on probation for five years; and denominated Counts III and V as "class A misdemeanors" of "stealing under $500," upon which the trial court sentenced Knox to concurrent sentences of six months in the city jail, with credit for time served. This appeal follows.

         Discussion

         Knox raises three points on appeal. In his first point, he challenges the trial court's entry of judgment against him on Count I for "stealing over $500," which is a class C felony under the prior version of the statute, because the jury convicted him of felony stealing, which is a class D felony under the current statute. In his second point, Knox argues the trial court plainly erred in entering judgment against him on Counts III and V for class A misdemeanor stealing because the jury convicted him of class D misdemeanor stealing on both counts, and thus the sentence imposed exceeded the statutory maximum for the crimes of which he was convicted. In his third point on appeal, Knox argues the trial court erred in entering a judgment of conviction on Count I, felony stealing, because the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Knox stole or received property valued at $750 or more from Victim. All three of Knox's points are well taken; however, in light of our decision in Point III to reverse the trial court's conviction on Count I of felony stealing and instead enter a conviction of class D misdemeanor stealing, Knox's first point is moot and we do not address it.

         Point II

         In his second point on appeal, Knox argues the trial court plainly erred in entering a judgment of class A misdemeanor stealing on both Counts III and V and in sentencing Knox to concurrent terms of six months imprisonment in the city jail because the jury in fact convicted him of two class D misdemeanors and Section 558.002, RSMo. (2016), [3] authorizes only a fine for class D misdemeanors, and thus the sentence exceeded the statutory maximum for the crimes of which he was convicted. We agree.

         Knox concedes he did not object below to the propriety of the trial court's judgment on Counts III and V below and thus it is not preserved for appellate review, but he requests plain error review under Supreme Court Rule 30.20. Plain error occurs where the record facially establishes substantial grounds to believe plain error occurred, which is error that is evident, obvious, and clear, resulting in manifest injustice or a miscarriage of justice. State v. McCleary, 423 S.W.3d 888, 896 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014). A sentence that exceeds what is authorized by law affects substantial rights and results in manifest ...


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