Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DVM-1233-06) (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Josey-herring, Associate Judge
Before RUIZ, and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges and JOSEY-HERRING,*fn1 Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Following a bench trial, appellant Nathaniel Bacchus was found guilty of simple assault, second-degree theft, and destroying property, but was acquitted of violating a civil protection order ("CPO"). An unlawful entry charge was dismissed prior to trial.
On appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred: (1) by admitting other crimes evidence relating to a prior arrest on May 31, 2005; (2) by admitting the testimony of a government witness who was seen prior to trial reviewing the grand jury transcript of the complaining witness' testimony; and (3) in finding that appellant destroyed the complaining witness' cell phone. We affirm appellant's convictions.
I. FACTUAL SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE AT TRIAL
The complaining witness, Yolanda Deloatch, and appellant were involved in a romantic relationship that lasted for three years and ended in 2005. After their relationship ended, appellant threatened and physically attacked Ms. Deloatch several times. According to Ms. Deloatch, one particular instance occurred on May 23, 2005 when appellant came to her home, argued with her, threatened to physically harm her, and, at one point, threatened to kill her. He also damaged property in her home (namely, a table, television, lamp and other items) and slashed her car tires. Based on this incident, appellant was arrested on May 31, 2005 and charged with assault and property damage offenses. On June 7, 2005, Ms. Deloatch obtained a CPO requiring appellant to stay 100 feet away from her. The criminal case against appellant was dismissed.
The following year another incident occurred between appellant and Ms. Deloatch, giving rise to the instant case. At trial, Ms. Deloatch testified that while driving home from work on May 1, 2006, she was talking on her cell phone with her friend and co-worker, Maria Gibson. When Ms. Deloatch arrived at her house, while still on the phone with Ms. Gibson, she saw appellant sitting on her front porch. As Ms. Deloatch walked toward her house, she told Ms. Gibson to stay on the phone because she feared that appellant would "start something" and, if he did, she wanted Ms. Gibson to call the police.
As Ms. Deloatch opened her front door, appellant cursed at her, called her names, and demanded to know why she had not returned his phone calls. Appellant then pushed Ms. Deloatch into the house and she fell. Ms. Gibson, who was still on the phone with Ms. Deloatch, testified that she heard "rustling and tussling." Ms. Gibson also stated that she heard Ms. Deloatch tell appellant to stop and heard Ms. Deloatch ask Ms. Gibson to call 911. Then the phone connection was lost and Ms. Gibson called the police.
According to Ms. Deloatch, the phone connection ended because, as appellant's tirade continued, she dropped her cell phone and appellant stomped on the phone and smashed it to pieces. Ms. Deloatch also stated that appellant eventually grabbed her purse, which contained $500 in cash, and ran outside the house. Ms. Deloatch ran to her car and attempted to follow appellant to get her purse back but was unable to catch up with him. Ms. Deloatch returned to her house and also called 911. The police came to the scene and interviewed her. While the police were there, appellant returned to the house and, as he was standing outside, Ms. Deloatch pointed him out to the police. Appellant ran away when the police went outside to talk to him.
Appellant and his wife, Belinda Bacchus, testified for the defense. Mrs. Bacchus testified that she and appellant had been married for nine years and had two children. Mr. and Mrs. Bacchus were separated and had not lived together since July 2003. According to Mrs. Bacchus, she first learned of Ms. Deloatch in February 2005 when she answered appellant's cell phone. Mrs. Bacchus testified that, over a year later in June 2006, Ms. Deloatch called her and threatened to kill her and her children and, as a result, she obtained a CPO to have Ms. Deloatch stay away from her. Mrs. Bacchus stated that she was aware that Ms. Deloatch and appellant were involved in a relationship but was unaware of the events of May 1, 2006 at issue in this case.
Appellant testified that he had been living at Ms. Deloatch's home since his release from a halfway house in December 2005 and paid $100 a month in rent. Ms. Deloatch's 16-year old nephew, Daryl Washington, testified that he had been living with his aunt and his cousin (Ms. Deloatch's 11-year-old son) for about a year and a half. During that period, Mr. Washington saw appellant visit his aunt in her home, but indicated that appellant had never lived in his aunt's home.
According to appellant, the May 1, 2006 incident started when he called Ms. Deloatch to tell her he was not able to pay his rent until the next day. Appellant later came to her house to talk to her and a verbal argument ensued about his failing to pay rent. Appellant denied pushing Ms. Deloatch, damaging her cell phone, or taking her purse or any money from it.
The court found appellant guilty of simple assault, second-degree theft, and destroying property. However, the court acquitted appellant of violating the CPO that had been issued in 2005, finding that the government ...