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State v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 30, 2017

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Tchad Tu Henderson, Appellant.

         Anoka County District Court File No. 02-CR-14-4578

         Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Anthony C. Palumbo, Anoka County Attorney, Kelsey R. Kelley, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Douglas V. Hazelton, Halberg Criminal Defense, Bloomington, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The manipulation of the steering wheel of a moving motor vehicle by a passenger constitutes "operation" of a motor vehicle under Minn. Stat. § 609.21 (2012).

          OPINION

          KIRK, Judge

         Appellant Tchad Tu Henderson appeals his criminal vehicular operation (CVO) convictions. He argues that: (1) the district court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause; (2) there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to support the district court's finding that he operated the motor vehicle; and (3) the district court committed plain error when it convicted him of CVO as charged in count 1 of the complaint. Appellant asks this court to reverse his convictions and dismiss the charges against him. Since appellant was tried and convicted, his probable cause challenge is not relevant on appeal. See State v. Holmberg, 527 N.W.2d 100, 103 (Minn.App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Mar. 21, 1995). Because we conclude that there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the court's finding that appellant operated the motor vehicle, we affirm. However, the district court erred when it entered a conviction on count 1 of the complaint, and we reverse entry of that conviction and remand to the court to amend the warrant of commitment and to determine if resentencing is necessary.

         FACTS

         On July 22, 2014, appellant was charged with one count of CVO causing great bodily harm due to grossly negligent conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(1) (2012), and three counts of CVO causing great bodily harm as a result of operating a motor vehicle in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol negligent/alcohol, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(2)(i) (2012). Appellant moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the state failed to establish probable cause that he operated the motor vehicle. Following a contested hearing, the district court concluded that there was sufficient probable cause to support the charges and denied appellant's motion.

         The district court held a one-day court trial on November 18, 2015. Appellant stipulated that the injuries B.H., B.F., and A.S. sustained in the crash constituted great bodily harm, that the crash occurred on July 20, 2014 in Anoka County, and that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. The district court considered the following evidence on the remaining contested element of whether appellant operated the vehicle:

         B.H. testified that she went to a bar with B.F. to meet appellant and A.S. B.H. did not consume alcohol that night, but the others did. At the bar, appellant appeared to be drunk. He was slurring his words, tripping over his own feet, and he did not seem very coherent. When the bar closed, the group decided that B.H. would drive them to appellant's friend's house because she was sober. B.H. did not have a valid driver's license. Appellant was the front-seat passenger and began arguing with B.H. over the directions to his friend's residence.

         B.H. testified that she pulled over at a gas station, verified appellant's friend's address, and started the navigation system on appellant's cellphone. Before pulling out of the gas station, B.H. instructed everyone to put on their seatbelts, which made appellant angry and argumentative, but he complied.

         After B.H. pulled out of the gas station, the arguing subsided, but then appellant told B.H. that she missed a turn, and he "took the steering wheel and yanked it towards" himself. This caused B.H. to lose control of the vehicle and it crashed, landing upside down. B.H. testified that when appellant pulled the steering ...


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