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Offutt v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 6, 2017

James N. Offutt, Appellant,
v.
United States, Appellee.

          Argued December 15, 2016

         Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CF2-12011-14) (Hon. Todd E. Edelman, Trial Judge)

          Thomas D. Engle, with whom Sharon L. Burka was on the brief, for appellant.

          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.

          Before Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ferren, Senior Judge.

          McLeese, Associate Judge

         Appellant 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. We affirm.

         I.

         The 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 apartment building.

         Mr. 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.

         An 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.

         Meanwhile, 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.

         Mr. 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.

         Mr. 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 ...


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