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Daniel James Spriggs, Jr v. United States

September 20, 2012

DANIEL JAMES SPRIGGS, JR., APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF3-23593-09) (Hon. Ronna Lee Beck, Trial Judge)

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

Argued June 13, 2012

Before FISHER and BECKWITH, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

In this appeal, we principally address the question whether a person can be convicted of aiding and abetting in the burglary of a home in which he or she dwells by supporting a third person‟s entry to commit a criminal offense against another person who also dwells in the premises. We answer the question yes and affirm the burglary conviction.

I.

In August of 2009, appellant asked Kai Morgan, an acquaintance, whether any one-bedroom apartments were available to rent. Appellant explained that he had no place to stay and that he was desperate to find a place for himself and his girlfriend, who was about to give birth. Mr. Morgan offered to allow appellant "to spend a couple of weeks in [his] apartment," but imposed a number of conditions upon appellant‟s stay, including "ma[king] him commit to basically a shoulder bag and some things, [and] immediate things for their own living situation because it was a small apartment." According to his testimony, Mr. Morgan told appellant "that it would not be a long [stay] -- you‟re a guest. You‟re going to only be a guest. You‟re not moving in," and appellant agreed to stay in the apartment only until his girlfriend gave birth. Mr. Morgan allowed them to stay in his bedroom while he slept on the living room couch. Mr. Morgan told appellant that if he needed to stay longer than two to three weeks, they could discuss a new agreement later. In return for allowing him to stay in his apartment, appellant gave Mr. Morgan between $80 and $100. Appellant and Mr. Morgan did not sign a written agreement.

The relationship between appellant and Mr. Morgan soured because Mr. Morgan complained that appellant came home late, was being loud, and was smoking weed in the home. Around the 19th or 20th of August, Mr. Morgan asked appellant to make preparations to leave. After appellant failed to make any preparations to leave over the next few days, Mr. Morgan began to destroy things in the apartment, such as the microwave, television, and curtains, in order to prevent appellant from using them. On or around September 14, 2009, Mr. Morgan told appellant that he was going out for a drink, and that when he returned, he wanted to see appellant packing. When Mr. Morgan returned home, a police officer placed him under arrest because "[appellant] accused [him] of pulling a knife on [appellant] while he was holding his baby." Mr. Morgan was charged with assaulting appellant and was released on September 21, 2009.

Upon release, Mr. Morgan returned home and discovered that appellant was still living there with his girlfriend and her new-born child, and that he had moved more of his belongings into the home. Mr. Morgan called the police to remove appellant from the home, but the police refused to do so, stating that appellant was a lessee. Mr. Morgan called the police a second time, but the police said that they would not remove appellant and threatened not to return if Mr. Morgan called again. Mr. Morgan then called the police a third time to disrupt appellant‟s sale of alcohol and cigarettes from the apartment, which appellant had been doing to support himself. The police arrived, but, in accordance with their threat, they drove away when they saw that it was Mr. Morgan who had called.

At around 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on September 22, 2009, Mr. Morgan returned to his home after running an errand. On his way into the home, Mr. Morgan saw appellant, Nathaniel Roberts, and appellant‟s brother, Nathaniel Spriggs, as well as two or three other people standing near his driveway. Mr. Morgan passed the group, went into his home, closed the door, pulled down a sheet covering the window to let light into the apartment, and went to sleep on the living room couch.

According to Mr. Morgan‟s testimony, later that night, a projectile hit one of the living room walls, causing him to jump up. A second unknown object then struck Mr. Morgan in the head, and when he looked up, he saw that Nathaniel Roberts had thrown it. Mr. Morgan attempted to run out of the apartment, but appellant blocked the door with his arm, and Mr. Roberts pulled him back into the room. Mr. Morgan testified that as Mr. Roberts struck him from behind, appellant punched him from the front. Mr. Morgan also claims that appellant struck him with an iron pipe and then threw him onto a glass table, shattering it. While he was on the ground, appellant threw a bicycle on him, and then Mr. Roberts threw the same bicycle on him a second time. Mr. Morgan testified that a third person was also present, beating and kicking him. When Mr. Roberts and the third person then left the apartment, Mr. Morgan fled.

Appellant gave a videotaped statement to the police which told a somewhat different story. The group that Mr. Morgan saw outside his home included alleged drug dealers who told appellant that they wanted to harm Mr. Morgan because he was "making the strip hot" by repeatedly calling the police. Appellant admitted telling them, "Yeah, fuck him up. You want to fuck him up, fuck him up. Please do. He ain‟t even lock the door." Appellant later told the police that he said to the alleged drug dealers, Nah, nah, nah, nah, don‟t hit him in the head with that motherfucker. Matter of fact, me and my brother took the goddamn -- because he was going to use the fucking club, you know, the club, one of them clubs. I said, nah, don‟t hit the motherfucker man, I don‟t want him killed. I want his ass, you can whoop his ass, but don‟t fucking kill this man. Don‟t hit him in the fucking head, just don‟t hit him in the fucking head.

He also claims that he entered the apartment with Mr. Morgan‟s assailants solely to guard his bedroom door so that Mr. Morgan would not run into his bedroom, where the baby and the baby‟s mother were still staying, during the attack.

Appellant stated that, during the attack,

the only time I put my hands on this motherfucker is when he ran to the door. I‟m standing in the dark. He ran to the door, over to our bedroom door, trying to get in, screaming and shit, they fucking him up. I pushed -- man get the fuck away from my fucking door. He ain‟t running in here because he was trying to get away from them. They was ...


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