Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-12-5424.
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Elizabeth Johnston, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent).
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jennifer Workman Jesness, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Chutich, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
Appellant Earley Romero Blevins challenges his conviction of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery, contending that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction, (2) the district court abused its discretion in allowing the state to impeach him with evidence of seven prior convictions, and (3) the district court erred in failing to give the jury a cautionary instruction when the prior-conviction evidence was introduced. Because sufficient evidence supports the conviction, no abuse of discretion occurred in admitting the prior-conviction evidence, and the district court's error in omitting the cautionary instruction did not prejudice Blevins's substantial rights, we affirm.
On the evening of February 21, 2012, H.K. was getting off a bus in Minneapolis when he saw two men who had harassed him in the past. Three days before, the men had pushed H.K. into traffic while he was waiting for a bus. H.K. had never spoken to the men except for some "trash talk." The men were later identified as Maurice Giles and appellant Blevins.
As H.K. got off the bus, Giles yelled, "hey, are you looking at me[?]" H.K. testified that he normally ignored such taunts, "but it happened so many times, [he] got kind of fed up and just turned around." With a retractable baton in his hand, H.K. faced the two men and began retreating into a parking lot. The men advanced and when they got close enough to touch H.K., Blevins reached around Giles and punched H.K. in the jaw.
Giles and Blevins then took turns "coming at" H.K., striking him several times in the face and torso. H.K. unsuccessfully attempted to fight the men off and they eventually knocked him to the ground. Blevins then sat on top of H.K., took H.K.'s wallet out of his hip pocket, and handed it to Giles. Blevins and Giles argued about the wallet, which contained no money, and Giles eventually put the wallet back in H.K.'s pocket without taking anything.
Several bystanders saw the fight and called 911, and police quickly arrested Giles and Blevins. Hennepin County charged Blevins with one count of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery.
Two witnesses who observed the fight testified at trial that they saw Blevins searching H.K.'s pockets. Blevins testified in his own defense, and the district court allowed the state to impeach him with evidence of seven prior convictions. Blevins testified that he hit H.K. and that "a fight ensued." He admitted that he "went through [H.K.'s] pockets, " but stated that he did not take anything and that he did not intend to rob H.K.
The jury found Blevins guilty and the district court sentenced him to 129 months in prison, the presumptive sentence for a person with Blevins's ...