Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs May 13, 2015
Appeal from the Criminal Court for White County No. CR-5714 Leon C. Burns, Jr., Judge
Mark E. Tribble, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, John Edward Lewis.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Bryant C. Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Philip Hatch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.
Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J.
Factual and Procedural Background
The Defendant and Lisa K. Young, the victim, were neighbors, but they were not friendly. On the day of the offense, the Defendant repeatedly drove a "Bobcat tractor" into the side of Ms. Young's mobile home, leaving holes in the side of her residence. As a result of the Defendant's actions, Ms. Young's home was uninhabitable. The White County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for two counts of aggravated assault, three counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of vandalism of property valued at $10, 000 or more. The Defendant entered a guilty plea to the vandalism charge, with the grade of the offense and restitution to be determined at a sentencing hearing. The remaining charges were dismissed.
At the sentencing hearing, Ms. Young testified that she had received an estimate of how much it would cost to repair the damage the Defendant caused. The estimate was introduced at the hearing for identification, but it was never introduced as an exhibit. Ms. Young did not testify as to the amount contained in the estimate. She did testify that the mobile home's foundation had been damaged and that she was beginning to tear down the home for salvage.
Ms. Young explained that she purchased the property in October of 2008 for $6, 000. A warranty deed showing the transfer with an assigned tax value of $6, 000 was entered into evidence. However, Ms. Young testified that she had not tried to sell the lot where her home sat and that she did not know how much the lot was worth.
The State informed the trial court that it had subpoenaed Larry Christian, the individual who had prepared the repair estimate for Ms. Young's home. Mr. Christian would be able to testify as to the value of the home and the cost of repairs. However, he had failed to appear for the hearing. The State asked to continue the hearing so that Mr. Christian could appear to testify. The Defendant opposed a continuance, and the trial court denied the motion to continue.
The Defendant argued that no evidence had been presented as to the value of Ms. Young's residence or the cost of repairs. Consequently, the Defendant asserted that the State had failed to prove damages, other than nominal damages, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Defendant asked that he be sentenced to vandalism of property valued at under $500.
In announcing its sentence, the trial court stated:
I would take issue with the argument that there's no proof. I think the owner of the property is entitled to give value, buying the land and trailer for [$6, 000]. It appears to me that the lot must have been worth something, and those type of facilities don't normally appreciate in value as they are purchased. I don't know what the time frame is from purchase to this incident, but based on that, with some reservations, but at the same time, with some degree of beyond a ...