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State v. Culpepper

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 5, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Maurice Culpepper, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-10-57688

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Bridget Kearns Sabo, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Stan Keillor, Special Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Hooten, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Judge; and Smith, Judge.

CLEARY, Judge

Following a jury trial during which he proceeded pro se, appellant was found guilty of theft and criminal damage to property and not guilty of aggravated forgery. Appellant challenges his convictions and sentences, arguing that the district court and the prosecution made numerous prejudicial errors before and during trial, that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain his convictions, and that the court should not have ordered him to pay restitution. We affirm.

FACTS

J.L. was the owner of a two-story building in Minneapolis that had commercial space on its lower level and residential space on its upper level. In February 2010, J.L. leased the residential space to appellant Maurice Culpepper and leased the commercial space to appellant and V.F. jointly. J.L. commenced an eviction proceeding against appellant in July 2010, alleging that appellant had failed to pay the rent for the month of July. During an eviction hearing in August 2010, appellant produced residential and commercial leases, which he claimed were the leases that he and J.L. had entered into. The district court ultimately determined that appellant could not be evicted because J.L. had accepted partial payment of the July rent, but that J.L. could commence another eviction proceeding if appellant failed to pay the rent in the future. The court noted in its order that the leases that appellant had produced appeared to be forged. When appellant failed to pay the rent for the month of August 2010, J.L. commenced a second eviction proceeding. The district court subsequently issued an eviction order that required appellant to vacate the premises by September 27, 2010.

On September 27, J.L. went to the building with law enforcement to evict appellant. When they went inside, they found that the building had been damaged extensively. Cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, windows, walls, and flooring had been torn apart and broken. The building's water heaters and wiring had been destroyed, and appliances were missing. D.S., a neighbor of the property, later reported that he saw a moving truck backed up to the building's garage on September 26, and that appellant and others were loading the truck. D.S. stated that he saw the men loading a stove or dishwasher into the truck and that he was able to look into the truck and saw furniture and a refrigerator inside. He further reported that, on the night of September 25, he heard loud, repeated banging and pounding and what sounded like a gathering or party at the property.

Appellant was charged with theft, criminal damage to property, and aggravated forgery. At the first appearance, appellant was ordered to stay away from the property at issue. A jury trial was held in May 2012, during which appellant proceeded pro se. The jury subsequently found appellant guilty of theft and criminal damage to property and not guilty of aggravated forgery. At sentencing, appellant was ordered to, among other things, pay $10, 213.74 in restitution. This appeal follows.

DECISION

I.

Appellant argues that the district court erred by failing to sever the charges against him and try the forgery charge separately from the charges of theft and damage to property. Appellant admits that he never requested that the court sever the charges, and thus the state maintains that appellant waived his argument on this issue by failing to raise it below.

On motion of the prosecutor or the defendant, the court must sever offenses or charges if:
(a) the offenses or charges are not related;
(b) before trial, the court determines severance is appropriate to promote a fair determination of the defendant's guilt or innocence of each offense or charge; or
(c) during trial, with the defendant's consent or on a finding of manifest necessity, the court determines severance is necessary to fairly determine the defendant's guilt or innocence of each offense or charge.

Minn. R. Crim. P. 17.03, subd. 3(1) (emphasis added). Defendants who do not move to sever charges in district court generally waive the right to challenge the joinder of charges on appeal. See, e.g., State v. Hudson, 281 N.W.2d 870, 872–73 (Minn. 1979) (stating that "failure to move for severance constitutes a waiver unless [the] defendant can show good cause for relief from the waiver"); State v. Moore, 274 N.W.2d 505, 506– 07 (Minn. 1979) (noting that a defendant may make a deliberate decision not to request severance of charges for reasons of strategy or to avoid having to defend himself in separate trials). Appellant does not provide a reason for failing to request ...


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