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Lihlakha v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 24, 2014

JESSICA A. LIHLAKHA, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

Argued November 7, 2013.

Page 480

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, (CMD-16417-11). (Hon. Truman A. Morrison III, Trial Judge).

R. Michael Labelle for appellant.

Clare Pozos, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, John L. Hill, and Ann K. H. Simon, Assistant United States Attorneys were on the brief, for appellee.

Before GLICKMAN and EASTERLY, Associate Judges, and FERREN, Senior Judge. Opinion for the court by Senior Judge FERREN. Concurring opinion by Associate Judge EASTERLY.

OPINION

Page 481

Ferren, Senior Judge :

Following a bench trial, appellant Jessica Lihlakha was convicted of misdemeanor receiving stolen property (RSP)[1] and unlawful entry.[2] On appeal, Lihlakha challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her convictions. We affirm her conviction for unlawful entry but remand the record for further findings on the RSP charge.[3]

I.

Lauren Banks testified that on August 13, 2011, she returned to her dorm room at Howard University and, upon entering, left her book bag in the hallway. During

Page 482

the minute or so that she left the bag unattended, her laptop inside it, a Macbook Pro, disappeared. After reporting what happened to campus police, Banks placed signs around her dorm building announcing a " missing Mac laptop," providing her phone number, and stating that the " [f]inder will be graciously compensated." The next evening, Banks received a phone call from a woman who asked Banks whether she was missing an HP laptop and what the reward would be for returning it. Banks answered that hers was not an HP but added that the reward was $1,000. The caller then told Banks that she had " just gotten this HP for the low," and that she would " keep an ear out and see if . . . your laptop comes up."

The woman called Banks the next day to say that she had found two Macbook Pros with the name " Lauren" on them after going to see " the guy she said she got the HP from." She told Banks that she had found two Mac laptops " at the same place" in " the room where the other computers were." The woman asked Banks for her full name to determine which of the Mac laptops belonged to her. Banks complied and learned that the caller apparently had her laptop. The caller then contacted Banks again to set up a meeting to exchange the money for the laptop that evening. At that point, Banks contacted the Howard University police, who suggested that Banks either meet the caller herself or have a police officer go in Banks's place. Banks agreed to have an officer pose as Banks to meet the caller. Per police instructions, Banks told the caller that she needed another day for her parents to wire her the reward money, and she continued to communicate with the caller until they arranged a time and place to meet. At the meeting on August 17, 2011, a police officer posing as Banks met the caller, and the officer thereupon recovered the laptop and brought Lihlakha to the police department for questioning. The police showed Banks a photo of the person who, an officer said, had delivered Banks's computer. (From the photo, Banks eventually identified that person in court as Lihlakha.) Not ...


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