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In re L.B.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 15, 2013

In re L.B., Appellant.

Submitted June 19, 2013

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia DEL-260-12 Hon. Maurice A. Ross, Trial Judge.

Fletcher P. Thompson was on the brief for appellant.

Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, Rosalyn C. Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, and Janice Y. Sheppard, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee.

Before Glickman and Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judges, and Newman, Senior Judge.

OPINION

NEWMAN, SENIOR JUDGE

After a bench trial, L.B. was convicted of making threats to do bodily harm, a violation of D.C. Code § 22-407. In this appeal, L.B. argues that she was found involved of a crime that was not included in the delinquency petition. We agree and reverse.

I.

By a petition dated February 4, 2012, L.B. was charged with one count of threats to do bodily harm, a violation of D.C. Code § 22-407. The charging document specifically alleged that L.B. "threatened to do bodily harm to Sgt. Bedlion."

Sergeant Bedlion of the Metropolitan Police Department testified to the threats at trial. He explained that he had responded to a domestic violence incident in Northeast D.C. where he encountered a number of bystanders, including L.B. Bedlion told L.B. she could leave the scene, and L.B. responded by saying "I'm going to slap your bitch ass." Bedlion believed the comment was directed at him, and placed L.B. under arrest for making threats. Taking the stand in her own defense, L.B. admitted making the statement, but insisted that it had been actually directed at the boyfriend of the person being arrested in the domestic violence incident (herself a friend of L.B.'s). The boyfriend, L.B. explained, had been standing "behind the officer" when she made the comment.

The trial court summarized the evidence in reaching its verdict, noting that L.B. "acknowledged making the threat" and "acknowledged it was intended as a threat." "The only thing the parties disagree on, " the trial court explained, "is who she made the threat against." After explaining the elements of the "offense of threats to do bodily harm, " the trial court concluded that L.B. could be adjudged delinquent because "she did intend to threaten the boyfriend." Noting, correctly, that it "doesn't matter whether or not he heard the threat, " the trial court convicted L.B.

II.

On appeal, L.B. argues that she was convicted of a crime (threatening the boyfriend) different from the crime with which she was charged (threatening Bedlion). Thus, she explains, her due process right to notice of the "specific charge or factual allegations to be considered at the hearing" was violated. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 33-34 (1967).

This court reviews de novo any errors of law in a trial court's judgment after a bench trial. See Brown v. M St. Five, LLC, 56 A.3d 765, 769 (D.C. 2012) (citing D.C. Code § 17-305 and explaining that "[o]n appeal from a bench trial, we review the trial court's legal conclusions de novo, but defer to its factual findings if they are supported by the record" (internal citation and quotation marks omitted)); In re C.J., 514 A.2d 460, 463 (D.C. 1986) (review of trial court's delinquency finding is pursuant to ยง 17-305). Accordingly, the trial court's legal conclusion in this case, that appellant could be convicted of the ...


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