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Reyes v. United States

August 16, 2007


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-3120-03 & F-3121-03) (Hon. Susan R. Winfield, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Chief Judge

Argued October 11, 2006

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and KRAMER and THOMPSON, Associate Judges.

Appellants Erlis Reyes and Victor Blanco ("appellants") appeal from their convictions for armed robbery, in violation of D.C. Code §§ 22-2801 & 22-4502, and unauthorized use of a vehicle ("UUV"), in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3215.*fn1 Both appellants contend on appeal that the trial court erred in permitting a police officer to testify as to statements made by the complaining witness. Appellant Erlis Reyes ("Reyes") further claims that: 1) his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses was violated; 2) he was denied due process, in violation of Brady;*fn2 and 3) the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever counts. Finding no error, we affirm.


On the night of May 28, 2003, the complainant Joseph Coe ("complainant" or "Coe") had mechanical problems with his van, which broke down around Georgia and Sherman Avenues. After securing assistance to repair his van, Coe walked to a nearby gas station on the southwest corner of Sherman Avenue to buy a pack of cigarettes and to get change for a ten dollar bill. The gas station attendant, however, would not make change for Coe. According to Coe's testimony at trial, he then asked a "Spanish guy," who was later identified as appellant Reyes, if he had change for a ten dollar bill; Reyes said he did not. Coe noticed that Reyes was going to pump six dollars worth of gas in his car, and asked Reyes if he would give him the six dollars in exchange for Coe's ten dollar bill, and give the four dollars Reyes would receive in change back to Coe. Reyes agreed and Coe gave him the ten dollar bill.

Reyes, however, did not return the four dollars in change to Coe, but instead pumped ten dollars worth of gas into his car, which was described as a champagne-colored Honda. Coe then approached Reyes and asked him to return his four dollars. Reyes responded that he did not have the money, and instructed Coe to ask his friend sitting in the backseat of the Honda, who was later identified as appellant Victor Blanco ("Blanco"), for the change. Coe testified that when he approached the car, Reyes pushed him from behind and into the backseat of the car. According to Coe, Blanco kept him in the backseat by holding a blade to his throat while Reyes drove away from the gas station. Blanco then demanded Coe's money which Coe pulled out and handed to him.

Coe then noticed that Reyes was driving in an area without lights and began to panic because he did not know what was going to happen next. In his panic, Coe struggled to get the knife away from his neck, and in the process Coe's right index finger was cut "all the way to the bone." Reyes then stopped the vehicle in front of Cardozo High School, and went into Coe's pocket while Coe was still "tussling" with Blanco. At some point during the incident, Reyes and Blanco took Coe's wedding band, gold chain, pager, and his money. Coe testified he was holding Blanco's hand because he did not want to be stabbed in any "vital point of [his] body." Reyes and Blanco then told Coe to get out of the car. As they drove away, Coe was able to see the license plate number of the car. Coe then ran towards the Garfield Terrace Apartment Complex, located at 2301 11th Street, Northwest.

Officer Bradford Brooks, of the D.C. Housing Authority Police Department, was on duty at the Garfield Terrace Apartment Complex the night of May 28, 2003. According to Officer Brooks, Coe ran through the door holding his hand, which was bleeding. Coe was also sweating, appeared highly upset and scared, and was rambling several things at once in a loud voice. Officer Brooks testified that he attempted to calm Coe down to find out what happened. According to Officer Brooks, Coe told him that he had just been robbed, kidnaped, and that somebody tried to cut his neck. Officer Brooks called for assistance to tend to Coe's bleeding hand and relayed to the radio dispatcher the description of the vehicle, the license plate number, and description of the assailants given by Coe.

Officer Christopher Dove and his partner, of the Metropolitan Police Department, were dispatched to Coe's location and arrived at the apartment complex approximately five to ten minutes after the call to the dispatcher. Officer Dove testified that when he first came into contact with Coe, he was very upset, talking rapidly, and scared. In addition, Officer Dove testified that Coe was bleeding profusely and was in significant pain. Coe then repeated the information he had given to Officer Brooks minutes earlier and also stated that the assailants had taken somewhere between $150 - $200 from him. Although Coe could not recall the denominations of bills taken from him at trial, Officer Dove testified that Coe stated the denominations included two fifty dollar bills, and some smaller bills.

Officer Dove further testified that after an Emergency Medical Technician ("EMT") had tended to Coe's hand, he and his partner took Coe to Sherman Avenue in their patrol vehicle. Although Coe was in need of further medical attention, Coe asked the officers if they would take him to his van because he could not find his keys and was worried that his assailants might also steal his vehicle. As the patrol car approached the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Harvard Street, Coe began to shout, "That's them! That's them, getting into the car!" Coe was pointing to and identifying two Hispanic males, standing in front of a champagne-colored Honda, a car that matched the description of the car driven by his assailants.

As Officer Dove approached the Honda, he observed both men quickly enter the car. Officer Dove also noticed that the ignition was "punched"*fn3 and ordered Reyes and Blanco out of the car. Officer Dove testified that both appellants had blood on their clothing although neither appeared to be injured. Blanco asked Officer Dove, "what was going on," and Officer Dove replied that they were driving a stolen car. Blanco then repeated, "the car is stolen."*fn4

The officers ordered appellants to sit down on the sidewalk and Coe identified Reyes as the individual who pushed him into the car, and Blanco as the assailant who held a knife to his neck.*fn5 Pursuant to appellants' arrest, the officers searched both appellants and recovered a fifty dollar bill from each, which Officer Dove testified matched the description Coe had given earlier in the evening regarding the denominations of bills stolen from him. Officer Dove also stated that he found a gold wedding band on the street, at the spot where appellant Blanco was standing just before he entered the car. The record also indicates that the ...

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