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Evans v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

March 17, 2016

STERLING P. EVANS, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

Argued September 22, 2015

On Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal Division CMD-5913-14

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CMD-5913-14) (Hon. Patricia A. Broderick, Trial Judge)

Nigel A. Barrella for appellant.

Seth M. Gilmore, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and Laura Crane, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

BEFORE: THOMPSON, EASTERLY, and McLeese, Associate Judges.

JUDGMENT

This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and as set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the judgment of conviction is reversed, and the case is remanded for the trial court to consider anew, in light of this opinion and all of the evidence presented at trial, whether appellant's failure to appear was willful.

OPINION

Phyllis D. Thompson, Associate Judge

After a bench trial, appellant Sterling Evans was convicted of a Bail Reform Act ("BRA") violation for "willfully fail[ing] to appear"[1] at a scheduled April 2, 2014, status hearing in his marijuana-possession case. Testifying on his own behalf at the BRA trial, appellant told the court that he failed to appear on April 2, 2014, because he thought he was scheduled to appear two days later, i.e., on April 4, 2014. In finding appellant guilty of the charged BRA violation, the trial judge, relying on this court's opinion in Trice v. United States, 525 A.2d 176 (D.C. 1987), reasoned that appellant had a "responsibility to check and make sure that he ha[d] the right date."

In this appeal, appellant asks us to resolve this question: Where a defendant in a BRA case defends on the ground that he failed to appear because he did not correctly remember the date of his scheduled court appearance, is a trial judge entitled to infer, solely from the fact that the defendant did not double check the scheduled date, that his failure to appear on that date was willful, and thus a violation of the BRA? We answer that question in the negative.[2] Because the trial judge in this case relied on just such an inference to find appellant guilty, we reverse the judgment of conviction. However, because we are presented with an evidentiary record that we judge to be "sufficient to support a finding of guilt but insufficient on the precise grounds . . . relied upon by the trial court[, ]" Foster v. United States, 699 A.2d 1113, 1115-16 (D.C. 1997), and that "does not clearly reveal the trial court's views with respect to [all of the] evidence [that] bear[s] upon the issue of willfulness[, ]" id. at 1115 n.4, we remand for the trial court to consider anew, in light of all the evidence, whether appellant's failure to appear was willful.

I. Background

Appellant was arrested on August 6, 2013, on a charge of possession of marijuana and was awaiting disposition of his case. On December 2, 2013, he signed a notice to return that required him to appear in court on April 2, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., for a diversion status hearing. When he failed to appear in ...


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