James N. Offutt, Appellant,
United States, Appellee.
December 15, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF2-12011-14) (Hon. Todd E. Edelman, Trial Judge)
D. Engle, with whom Sharon L. Burka was on the brief, for
Valinda Jones, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Channing D. Phillips, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth
Trosman and Chrisellen R. Kolb, Assistant United States
Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ferren, Senior
McLeese, Associate Judge
James Offutt seeks reversal of his conviction for tampering
with evidence, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to
support his conviction and that the trial court erroneously
allowed him to be cross-examined on an impermissible basis.
evidence at trial indicated the following. In August of 2013,
Mr. Offutt had recently moved into an apartment building at
910 Eastern Avenue, N.E. Dennis Bell had lived in the
building for many years. Around 10:30 p.m. on August 12,
2013, Mr. Bell saw Mr. Offutt sitting in front of the
building. Mr. Bell thought Mr. Offutt was watching him and
might be an informant. Mr. Bell approached Mr. Offutt and
asked if he could talk to Mr. Offutt for a minute. Mr. Offutt
responded, "[Y]ou don't know me." Mr. Bell
replied, "I know I don't know you[, ] I just want to
talk to you." In response, Mr. Offutt said, "I got
something for your ass." Mr. Offutt then went into the
Bell remained outside, and a couple of minutes later he saw
Mr. Offutt coming towards him with a handgun. Mr. Bell moved
towards Mr. Offutt, grabbed the gun, and shot the gun in Mr.
Offutt's direction. Mr. Bell did not know if he hit Mr.
Offutt. Mr. Bell discarded the gun behind a parked car and
ran away to try to find police officers. From a distance, Mr.
Bell saw Mr. Offutt pick up the gun.
eyewitness flagged down two police officers and reported the
incident. The officers drove to the scene of the shooting. As
they were searching the scene, Mr. Offutt ran out of a
building and told the police that he had been shot. The
officers called for an ambulance, which arrived.
Mr. Bell went to a police station and reported the shooting.
Mr. Bell then returned to the scene of the shooting. As Mr.
Bell approached police officers on the scene, Mr. Offutt
noticed him. Mr. Offutt got out of the ambulance and punched
Mr. Bell in the face, saying, "that's the
[expletive] who shot me." Mr. Bell was arrested.
Offutt was taken to Howard Hospital for treatment. There, a
detective told Mr. Offutt that the police would be getting a
warrant to search Mr. Offutt's apartment. Mr. Offutt was
medically discharged at 2:52 a.m. After Mr. Offutt left the
hospital, he went to the police station and spoke with
Detective Jeffrey Dixon. Mr. Offutt told Detective Dixon that
he had gone to his apartment and the police would not let him
in. Detective Dixon explained that he was in the process of
obtaining a search warrant for Mr. Offutt's apartment and
that Mr. Offutt could not go into the apartment until the
warrant was executed.
Offutt lived in apartment 103. Police officers secured the
apartment and then guarded the apartment until a search
warrant was obtained and executed. At times, only the front
of the apartment was guarded, but from sometime between 2:00
and 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. the back was guarded as well. The
officers guarding ...