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Jay Young Leander v. United States

May 9, 2013

JAY YOUNG LEANDER, A/K/A LEANDER JAY YOUNG, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (DVM-2566-11) (Hon. Jennifer M. Anderson, Trial Judge)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oberly, Associate Judge:

Argued February 28, 2013

Before GLICKMAN and OBERLY, Associate Judges, and BELSON, Senior Judge.

Following a bench trial, appellant, Jay Young Leander a/k/a Leander Jay Young, was convicted of one count of simple assault, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-404 (2001), and one count of attempted possession of a prohibited weapon, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-4514 (b) (2001) ("APPW (b)"). On appeal, he raises three arguments: (1) he claims the government violated Super. Ct. Crim. R. 16 by not timely delivering the videotape of an interview between appellant and a police detective that was used by the government at trial to impeach appellant's testimony; (2) he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions; and (3) he claims the trial court impermissibly interfered with plea negotiations. We find no merit to his first two arguments, but we agree with his third contention. Finding the error harmless, however, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I.Background

Both charges arose out of an altercation between appellant and his brother at their mother's house on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. According to the evidence credited by the trial court, when the scuffling between the two brothers was over, appellant's brother had slipped on the living room floor and ruptured a tendon when appellant lunged at him. Appellant's brother then sustained a cut on his left hand, requiring stitches and causing permanent damage, while trying to protect his head from a blow with a gravy pot appellant took from the stove in the kitchen and brought to the living room to take a swing at his brother's head.

Just prior to the start of trial, the trial judge asked the parties whether the case could be resolved with a plea. The judge told appellant that she "g[a]ve a lot of credit for acceptance of responsibility." She then took a ten-minute recess so that defense counsel could talk to his client. When the proceedings resumed, defense counsel advised the judge that the parties had been unable to reach an agreement. The judge responded by saying to appellant, "All right. Well, I do give a lot of credit for acceptance of responsibility. . . . I don't really get in the middle of plea negotiations. I mean, I just want to make sure that, although you have been sitting here watching all morning, so you kind of know my policy, but that's -- you know, I don't care one way or the other. I'm here. I'm going to be going to trial. If it's not your trial, it will be somebody else's trial. I just want to make sure that, you know, that you've explored that if that's what you wanted to do."

The trial then commenced with opening statements. The government put on one witness, the victim (appellant's brother), and then rested its case. After the court denied appellant's motion for judgment of acquittal, the defense put appellant on the stand as its only witness. The government called as its rebuttal witness the detective who responded to a call from the victim during the scuffle, and the trial then ended with closing arguments from each side.

After closing arguments, the judge summarized the evidence and concluded that she found the victim's version of events more credible than appellant's. She found appellant guilty of both counts with which he had been charged (simple assault and APPW (b)) and then proceeded directly to sentencing. On the simple assault count, she sentenced appellant to 180 days in jail with all but 60 days suspended. On the APPW (b) count, she sentenced appellant to 180 days in jail, all of which were suspended. She also sentenced appellant to 12 months' supervised probation and ordered him to enroll in drug and alcohol treatment and anger management programs; stay away from his brother and his brother's residence, and pay a $100 assessment to the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Fund.

II.Discussion

A.

We review appellant's first argument for plain error because, although his counsel claimed not to have received the videotaped interview prior to trial (a contention the government does not dispute although it does contend that it delivered the videotape to counsel's CJA "mailbox" five days before trial), counsel did not object to the trial court's decision to allow counsel time over the lunch hour to review the tape, did not request additional time to review the tape, did not object to the admissibility of the tape, and did not request any sanctions against the government for the allegedly belated delivery of the tape. In these circumstances, we find no cause for the trial court, sua sponte, to have imposed sanctions for an alleged violation of Rule 16. See Sandwick v. District of Columbia, 21 A.3d 997, 1002 (D.C. 2011). Moreover, we agree with the government that appellant's statements on the videotaped interview, which the government introduced to undermine the credibility of his trial testimony about his prior criminal history and certain details of the altercation with his brother, did not go to the central issue of which brother was the first aggressor. The trial court determined that the physical exhibits supported the version of the fight put forth by appellant's brother more than they supported appellant's story, and it is not our role to second-guess that determination. See, e.g., Stroman v. United States, 878 A.2d 1241, 1244 (D.C. 2005).

B.

Second, we reject appellant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The trial court made a determination that the testimony of appellant's brother that appellant struck him with the gravy pot was more credible than appellant's speculative testimony that his brother was injured in some other manner. We will not reverse the fact-finder's credibility determinations unless they are clearly erroneous, and here they are not. See Stroman, 878 A.2d at 1244. We also reject appellant's contention that the gravy pot was not a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of D.C. Code ยง 22-4514 (b). We have held repeatedly that an ordinary household object may be a dangerous weapon if it is "known to be likely to produce death or great ...


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