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Wilkins v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

May 5, 2016

CHARLES E. WILKINS, Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Appellee.

Submitted March 8, 2016.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF2-3132-14) (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge)

James E. Drew was on the brief for appellant.

Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, Katherine Earnest, and Karen P. Seifert, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief for appellee.

BEFORE: Fisher, Easterly and McLeese, Associate Judges.

JUDGMENT

This case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and without presentation of oral argument. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the appellant's conviction is affirmed.

OPINION

JOHN R. FISHER, ASSOCIATE JUDGE

A jury convicted appellant Charles Wilkins of violating the Bail Reform Act (the "BRA") by willfully failing to appear for sentencing.[1] He argues that the trial court erred by not giving his proposed theory- of-the-case jury instruction and that the record contained insufficient evidence of willfulness to support the conviction. We affirm.

I. Background

On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, appellant appeared in Superior Court for proceedings related to two misdemeanor criminal cases. Appellant signed two notices, one for each case, acknowledging that he was required to appear for sentencing two days later, on Friday, February 21, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. Although transcripts of the February 19 and February 21 proceedings are not part of the record before us, the government presented expert testimony at appellant's trial explaining standard courtroom practice. Courtroom clerks will orally notify a defendant of the date and time he is next required to appear in court and of the consequences for failing to appear, require that he sign a Notice to Return to Court containing the same information, and give him a copy of the signed notice. Appellant's former attorney explained that the start time for the February 21 hearing was deliberately set later than usual, at 11:00 a.m., to give Mr. Wilkins more time to get to court.

On February 21, appellant was not present in court at 11:00 a.m. When his attorney, Marnitta King, "called Mr. Wilkins at his house" at 12:17 p.m. and 12:49 p.m. that day, he was still at home, even though "[h]e knew he needed to be in court." During the first call, Ms. King said, she "told him he need[ed] to be here by two; a, because [after that time] the judge will be gone; but b, because I will be gone."

By the second time Ms. King spoke to appellant, a bench warrant had issued for his arrest in each misdemeanor case. During the second phone call, Ms. King told appellant that if he could not get to court by the time the judge left the bench (and she left the courthouse) at 2:00 p.m., then he should come to court on Monday so she could try to get the warrants quashed. Ms. King testified that appellant "didn't say he wasn't coming"; rather, "[h]e was in the process of getting himself together to come." Appellant never came to ...


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