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Nowlin v. United States

September 27, 2001

CHARLES NOWLIN, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Before Terry and Washington, Associate Judges, and Mack, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mack, Senior Judge

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Patricia A. Wynn, Trial Judge)

Argued December 1, 2000

Appellant Charles Nowlin appeals from his conviction after a non-jury trial for second-degree theft in contravention of D.C. Code §§ 22-3811, -3812 (b) (1996 & Supp. 2000). Appellant's sole contention on appeal is that the evidence regarding his knowledge and intent was insufficient. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that appellant's conviction must be reversed.

I.

The evidence adduced at trial shows that on January 15, 1997, appellant Nowlin walked into Crestar Bank, presented his driver's license and Department of Human Services identification card and cashed a check made payable to him in the amount of $574. That check, numbered 6910, was issued from Bladensburg Auto Body Shop and bore the purported signature of James Carson, a co-owner of the shop.

Sometime later that month Carson noticed that the balance in the auto shop's checking account was unusually low. Upon investigation, he discovered that check 6910 was neither written nor signed by him. In addition, he did not recognize the name to whom the check was made payable. Shortly after discovering the forged check, Carson fired two part-time employees he believed to have taken check 6910 along with several other "missing" company checks.

An investigator for Crestar Bank studied check 6910 and determined the branch where the check was cashed and the types of identification appellant presented. He also recovered the security camera videotape that had recorded the transaction. The videotape and a copy of the check were submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department Financial Crimes Unit. After comparing the videotaped images to a file photograph of appellant, the police arrested him.

During a bench trial, the government offered the testimony of bank and police investigators who identified appellant as the individual who cashed the check. They also called Carson who testified that he did not know or recognize appellant. The prosecutor asked Carson only two questions in this regard; the complete exchange was as follows:

Q: Who is the payee listed on the check?

A: Well, it looks like Charles Newman or something.

Q: Nowlin? Can you spell it?

A: N-O-W-L-E-N?

Q: Do you know that ...


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