Ramon R. Cherry, Appellant,
District of Columbia, Appellee.
February 7, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CTF-10624-14) (Hon. Diana Harris Epps, Magistrate Judge)
(Hon. William M. Jackson, Reviewing Judge)
Matthew J. Peed for appellant.
W. Donovan, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A.
Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd
S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Deputy
Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.
Thompson, Beckwith, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
McLeese, Associate Judge
Ramon R. Cherry challenges his conviction for leaving after
colliding, in violation of D.C. Code § 50-2201.05c
(a)(2) (2014 Supp.). Mr. Cherry argues that the trial court
incorrectly interpreted § 50-2201.05c (a)(2) and that
the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. We
vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.
pertinent evidence at trial, which included a surveillance
videotape depicting the collision at issue, was as follows.
On June 16, 2014, at approximately 9:45 p.m., Mr. Cherry was
driving a car on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. He turned
left onto Mellon Street and continued turning, crossing the
double yellow line, with the driver's door hanging ajar.
The car hopped the curb, onto the sidewalk, and crashed into
a wall that enclosed a patio area adjacent to a convenience
store. Immediately after the crash, Mr. Cherry got out of the
car and walked down the block toward the corner of Martin
Luther King Jr. Avenue and Mellon Street, where the
convenience store was located. A crowd was gathering at the
corner. Mr. Cherry apparently exchanged words with some of
Scott Schmoeller and his partner, who were responding to
another call nearby and heard the crash, arrived on the scene
within one minute of the crash. As they approached the car,
Mr. Cherry and other individuals walked toward the car as
well. The officers told the group to back up because the
officers were securing the scene. Officer Schmoeller asked
the members of the group, which included Mr. Cherry, whether
they had seen anything. The group remained silent, and Mr.
Cherry did not identify himself as the driver.
Cherry then walked forward, toward the car and away from the
group, while the police were inspecting the car. Mr. Cherry
reached out to the driver's side front door and pushed it
partially closed. There was conflicting evidence as to
whether Officer Schmoeller told Mr. Cherry to step away from
the car. In any event, Mr. Cherry did step away. As Mr.
Cherry turned and walked back toward the corner, Officer
Schmoeller followed behind for several paces. The officer
then turned back to the car. Mr. Cherry reached the corner
and turned right on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, continuing
out of view of the surveillance camera and in the general
direction of the entrance to the convenience store. At that
point, approximately two minutes had elapsed since the crash.
twelve seconds after Mr. Cherry walked to the corner and out
of view of the surveillance camera, Officer Schmoeller did
the same. Officer Schmoeller then went into the convenience
store. He spoke with people inside the store, who did not
appear to be aware of the car crash. Using a monitor in the
basement of the store, Officer Schmoeller was able to view
video footage from the surveillance camera that had recorded
the crash. He recognized that Mr. Cherry had been the driver
and was among the group that had been standing near the car
when the officers first arrived on the scene. Officer
Schmoeller then left the store. Officer Schmoeller did not
see Mr. Cherry in the store, although he acknowledged that it
was possible that Mr. Cherry had walked into the store while
Officer Schmoeller was in the basement.
leaving the store, Officer Schmoeller walked around the
surrounding area, looking for Mr. Cherry. Specifically,
Officer Schmoeller walked through the 2900 block and part of
the 3000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and through
a nearby park. Having failed to locate Mr. Cherry, he
returned to the car and rejoined his partner. Approximately
twelve minutes after the crash, Mr. Cherry approached the
car, politely identified himself to the officers, and
acknowledged that he had been driving the car and had hit the
wall. Mr. Cherry ...