KAMONTE J. LESHER, Appellant,
UNITED STATES, Appellee.
Submitted September 13, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Criminal
Division (CMD-3806-14) (Hon. Truman A. Morrison, III, Trial
Williams was on the brief for appellant.
Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth
Trosman, Chrisellen R. Kolb, Kamil Shields and Jason B.
Feldman, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief
BEFORE: Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges; and Ruiz,
case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record,
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
and ADJUDGED that the judgment of the Superior Court is
Thompson, Associate Judge:
a bench trial, appellant Kamonte Lesher was found guilty of
attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled
substance (marijuana) ("attempted PWID") and
possession of drug paraphernalia ("PDP").
See D.C. Code §§ 48-904.01 (a)(1),
48-904.09, 48-1103 (a) (2012 Repl.). He asserts that the
evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions and that
the trial court reversibly erred by allowing a police officer
to testify about the results of a field test. We disagree and
government presented evidence that on the evening of March 5,
2014, members of the Metropolitan Police Department executed
a search warrant at a row house located at 725 Otis Place,
N.W. Officer Qasim Thomas testified that, while searching a
large room on the second floor of the house, he found, in
plain sight in the middle of the floor, a social security
card, a notice of unsatisfied parking tickets, and a police
report from an unrelated incident, all bearing
appellant's name. Although other people were in the house
during the search, no documents or personal items belonging
to any other person were found in the room. Another officer
searched appellant, whom officers encountered just inside the
doorway of the room, and found a green weed-like substance on
his person. Searching the rest of the room, officers found
currency totaling over $2, 300 in three different locations;
three plastic bags containing a green weed-like substance
behind the radiator (with the largest of the bags containing
nine smaller-sized knotted sandwich bags of the green
weed-like substance); and, on the floor in front of the futon
and in close proximity to the bags of green weed-like
substance, a box of empty ziplock sandwich bags and a digital
scale. Officer Thomas field tested portions of the substance
found on appellant's person and behind the radiator, and
the test produced "a positive color reaction for THC,
which is the active ingredient in marijuana."
George Thomas, Jr., whom the court qualified as an expert in
the areas of the distribution and use of marijuana, the
packaging of marijuana for street level distribution, and the
price for which marijuana is sold, testified that the green
weed-like substance found behind the radiator produced
"a very strong odor consistent with marijuana."
Detective Thomas further testified that sandwich bags are a
"common way" in which marijuana is packaged.
Focusing on one of the bags of the green weed-like substance
found behind the radiator, Detective Thomas told the court
that the fact that one of the bags contained "nine small
packaged bags, " which reflected "labor
intense" work to "remove smaller portions, and . .
. place them into the smaller sandwich bags, then . . . tie
them up[, ]" was consistent with distribution rather
than personal use. He testified in addition that the quantity
of the substance found in the bags "in combination"
was not consistent with personal use. Finally, he told the
court that the assortment of different-sized plastic bags
(which he said corresponded to the amount of marijuana that
would be sold for $5, $20 to $30, or $40 on the streets) and
the "close proximity" of the bags to each other and
to the digital scale and sandwich bags were "consistent
with the intent to distribute."
the absence of clothing and other belongings in the
second-floor room, the trial court stated that the case was a
"difficult and close" one in terms of whether
appellant could be linked to the evidence found in the room.
Nevertheless, the court found that "the inference is a
natural one that [appellant] had dominion and control over
the place where he allowed [his] documents to be on the
floor, including his social security card." Reasoning
that appellant had dominion and control over the room, the
court also found that he had constructive possession of the
green weed-like substance found behind the radiator,
including knowledge of it, "the ability to guide its
destiny, and the specific intent to do so." The court
also cited as a "tiny factor" in its analysis the
fact that the substance found on appellant's person
appeared to have the same color as the substance found behind
the radiator. Regarding whether appellant "thought he
had marijuana, " the court relied on Detective
Thomas's testimony that the green weedlike substance
smelled like marijuana and was packaged "in a fashion
that marijuana is packaged, both for personal consumption and
for distribution ...