Dominic A. WHITE, Appellant,
UNITED STATES, Appellee.
February 27, 2019
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF3-3070-15) (Hon. Juliet J. McKenna, Trial Judge)
E. Allen for appellant.
J. Lenerz, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jessie
K. Liu, United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, John
P. Mannarino, and Monica Trigoso, Assistant United States
Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, and Fisher and Beckwith,
Appellant Dominic A. White challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to support his convictions for insurance fraud,
conspiracy, and aggravated assault while armed
("AAWA"). He also argues that the trial judge
committed reversible error in
responding to a question from the jury. Once again, this
court must grapple with the question of what constitutes a
"serious bodily injury," an element of proof
required to convict a defendant of AAWA. We affirm in part,
reverse in part, and remand for resentencing.
A. The Insurance Scheme
Phanessa Haynes filed a claim with State Farm Insurance on
October 15, 2014, reporting that somebody had stolen the rims
and tires from her Volkswagen Passat. She included a
photograph of her car and two receipts totaling $ 5,342.04,
purportedly documenting her purchase of those rims and tires.
Haynes declined State Farms offer to replace the missing
items, instead insisting that the insurance company reimburse
her. Haynes hired WTF Towing to take her Volkswagen to a lot,
and State Farm provided her with a temporary rental car.
Farms fraud investigation unit began reviewing Hayness
claim on October 20. Many warning signs of fraud emerged,
according to Laura Gladding, the companys claims specialist
who reviewed the matter. These included the recent purchase
of the policy, the customers eagerness to settle the claim,
and a discrepancy between the addresses on the tire
merchants website and the receipts. Additionally, the
insurance company obtained the police report filed by Haynes,
in which she estimated the value of the stolen items as only
about $ 1,400.
Gladding conducted two phone interviews on October 27: one
with Haynes and another with a person whom Haynes said was
her brother "Dominic." The man on the latter call,
who used appellants phone number, identified himself to
Gladding as "Damon Whittaker." This man reported
that the missing rims and tires had been installed by
somebody named "Jay" rather than a person nicknamed
"D. Money," as Haynes had stated. Gladding asked
him for the contact information for "Jay" but never
received it. During a call on October 30, Gladding told
Haynes that State Farm would not process her claim unless she
spoke under oath with a company attorney. Gladding added that
the company would only pay for the cars storage at the
towing lot for a few more days.
B. The Attack at the Towing Lot
arrived at WTF Towings lot to pick up her car at about 5:00
p.m. on November 4 and saw Philip Lovell installing tires and
rims on her Volkswagen. Haynes expressed her anger with
Lovell about a scratch on the car as well as the
"raggedy rims" that he had installed. Soon, a
quarrel erupted and both parties exchanged derogatory words.
Haynes, who was holding a cell phone on speakerphone, said
into the phone, "Im here now." Haynes then told
Lovell, "You gonna make me call my boyfriend on
you." After she demanded that Lovell "hurry
up" with the installation, he responded, "Why dont
you call your punk boyfriend and ... tell him to come fix
it." Haynes said to somebody on her phone that
"[t]heyre playing games with me" and that "he
called you out."
Eventually, Lovell walked away from Haynes and toward the
area where tires were stored. Moments later, appellant
arrived at the towing lot. Haynes pointed to Lovell and told
appellant, "Thats him." Next, an onlooker
screamed, "Watch out!" and Lovell turned around to
see appellant swinging a metal pole at his head. The pole
— an aluminum handle used to operate a car jack —
struck the head of Lovell, who fell to the ground and covered
his head and face. ...