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State v. Raudenbush

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 6, 2017


         Session Date: September 20, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Monroe County No. 11077 Jon Kerry Blackwood, Senior Judge

         In his first trial, Defendant, George Joseph Raudenbush, III, was convicted of driving on a suspended license, violating the financial responsibility law, speeding, felony evading arrest, misdemeanor evading arrest, assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court merged the misdemeanor evading arrest conviction into the felony evading arrest conviction and imposed an effective four-year sentence. On appeal, this court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial because the trial court denied Defendant his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by requiring him to proceed pro se at trial. State v. George Joseph Raudenbush, III, No. E2012-02287-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 62372011 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 3, 2013). In his second trial, the subject of this appeal, Defendant was convicted of driving on a suspended license, violating the financial responsibility law, speeding, felony evading arrest, misdemeanor evading arrest, assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court again imposed an effective four-year sentence to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, Defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in overruling Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal; (2) whether the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for felony evading arrest and assault; (3) whether the trial court erred by denying his motion for a change of venue; and (4) whether there was juror misconduct. Defendant is not entitled to relief on the issues presented. However, the trial court failed to merge the conviction for misdemeanor evading arrest with the conviction for felony evading arrest. We therefore remand the convictions for merger. In all other respects the judgments are affirmed.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed as Modified; Remanded

          Gerald L. Gulley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal) and C. Richard Hughes, Jr., District Public Defender; Donald Leon Shahan and Abby Burke, Assistant Public Defenders, (at trial) for the appellant, George Joseph Raudenbush, III.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Stephen Davis Crump, District Attorney General; and Paul Rush, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.




         State's Proof

         On December 30, 2010, Sergeant Brian Millsaps of the Tellico Plains Police Department was patrolling and "running" radar on Highway 68. Auxiliary Officer April Shaffer was riding with him at the time. Sergeant Millsaps testified that the speed limit on Highway 68 was forty-five miles per hour. At some point, as they were driving toward Coker Creek, Sergeant Millsaps and Officer Shaffer met Defendant's vehicle which Sergeant Millsaps estimated to be travelling over the speed limit. Sergeant Millsaps testified that he is trained to observe a vehicle and to estimate its speed. His radar unit verified that the vehicle was travelling fifty-seven miles per hour, which was twelve miles over the posted speed limit. Sergeant Millsaps turned around, activated his blue lights, and got behind Defendant's vehicle to initiate a traffic stop. Defendant pulled over, and Sergeant Millsaps noticed that Defendant's license plate read: "Luke 4:18." He could not tell from which state the plate was registered. Sergeant Millsaps noted that the stickers on the license plate were not real. He said that there were also stickers on the plate that read: "Basieia Ouranos." The plate showed that it was issued by the "" Sergeant Millsaps ran a check on the license plate, and it came back as "not on file."

         Sergeant Millsaps walked up to the driver's side of the vehicle, and Officer Shaffer walked up to the passenger side. Detective Travis Jones also arrived on the scene as back-up and was sitting in his truck. Sergeant Millsaps explained to Defendant why he had pulled Defendant over, and he asked for Defendant's driver's license, insurance, and registration. Sergeant Millsaps described Defendant's driver's license as follows:

At the top, it's got "driver's license." In the upper right-hand corner it has "kingdom of Heaven." It has a photograph of [Defendant]. It has an ID number, his sex, a Baptism, an issue date and an expiration date. It has his height, weight, eye color, hair color, his name, George Joseph, III, Raudenbush, Embassy of Heaven Church. An address, I can read that if you wish. And then State of Oregon. And then his signature at the bottom.

         Sergeant Millsaps testified that the driver's license was not valid, and Defendant told Sergeant Millsaps that he was not a resident of the State of Tennessee. He never presented the officer with a valid driver's license. Sergeant Millsaps checked the status of Defendant's driver's license and learned that it was suspended. He later obtained a certified copy of Defendant's driving history.

         Sergeant Millsaps testified that Defendant also gave him a document that read: "vehicle title and registration record." It indicated that it was issued by the "Embassy of Heaven, " and it had an address from the State of Oregon on it. Concerning the document, Sergeant Millsaps further testified: And a phone number. Date of report: July 31st, 2009 year of our Lord. To whom it may concern: May the peace and joy of Jesus Christ be with you. And then it has a vehicle title and registration record. Steward: It had George Joseph, III, Raudenbush. An email - - I presume an e-mail address. The plate number is Luke 4:18. It's got the title number, registration date, process date, and the type of vehicle, which is the '86 Ford vehicle he was driving that night. And then it's got: I certify that the foregoing is true and correct based on abstract of the church vehicle record and the authority of Jesus Christ, Embassy of Heaven, Paul Revere, pastor.

         Sergeant Millsaps testified that the registration was not valid in the State of Tennessee. Defendant provided a "vehicle certificate of title." The document had a notary seal from "Embassy of Heaven." The document read: "Embassy of Heaven of the Kingdom of Heaven certifies that the vehicle described below has been registered in this office and that the individual stated below is the lawful steward." There was also a registration card with the same information.

         Sergeant Millsaps testified that he informed Defendant that he would be under arrest if he could not produce a valid driver's license. When he asked if Defendant had any form of a government-issued driver's license, Defendant replied: "I'm not a citizen of this state." Sergeant Millsaps asked Defendant to step out of the car, and Defendant rolled up the window and locked the door. Sergeant Millsaps then yelled at Defendant because the window was rolled up and told Defendant that he was under arrest. At that time, Defendant put his car in drive and turned the wheel. Sergeant Millsaps used his flashlight to knock the driver's side window out of the car. He testified that he did not hit Defendant with the flashlight. Sergeant Millsaps attempted to open Defendant's door but Defendant "accelerated onto Highway 68." Sergeant Millsaps then took "evasive action" to avoid being struck by Defendant's car. Officer Shaffer testified that the Defendant's car nearly hit her and Sergeant Millsaps. Detective Jones pulled out behind Defendant, and Sergeant Millsaps and Officer Shaffer also began chasing Defendant. Concerning the chase, Sergeant Millsaps testified:

I traveled what they call Coker Creek Mountain out of Tellico, which is south. Started up the mountain. Go to the top of the mountain, go another mile or so, and then there's Pond Ridge Road. It's actually two entrances on that highway off 68 loop.
During all this, going up the mountain - - before we get to the mountain, there's a vehicle coming toward Tellico, meeting up. [Defendant] was not keeping in his lane. That vehicle had to go off on the right side of the highway.

         Officer Shaffer testified that she also observed the vehicle go off the road and into the grass to avoid hitting Defendant's car. Sergeant Millsaps testified that the chase was not a high speed one and that it reached a speed of forty to fifty miles per hour. He said that they did not try to wreck Defendant's vehicle. At one point they tried to "box him in" but Defendant struck Detective Jones' truck before they could get "set up." Sergeant Millsaps testified that Defendant lost control of his vehicle at one point and "slid all the way, sideways, in the road." Defendant was able to keep going, and he eventually turned onto Pond Ridge Road and into a driveway. Defendant stopped the car, got out, and ran.

         Sergeant Millsaps got out of his car and chased Defendant on foot. He yelled at Defendant to stop but Defendant continued running. Sergeant Millsaps eventually lost sight of Defendant. He later received information from dispatch and went to a residence. Defendant was taken out of the residence, arrested, and transported to jail.

         Detective Travis Jones of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office testified that in December of 2010, he drove an unmarked, black F-150 truck. The vehicle was equipped with blue lights and sirens. On the night of December 30, 2010, Detective Jones was on his way home when he learned that Sergeant Millsaps had stopped a vehicle. He drove to the scene in order to "back him up on the traffic stop" and activated his blue lights.

         Detective Jones was about to step out of his truck when he heard a loud "pop, " and he saw Sergeant Millsaps "jump back." Detective Jones then realized the sound was the driver's side window breaking. Defendant drove away, and Detective Jones pulled out behind him and activated his siren. Detective Jones testified that his pursuit of Defendant lasted approximately two miles: from Highway 68 and Mecca Pike to Pond Ridge Road and Coker Creek.

         Detective Jones testified that he attempted to drive around Defendant to effect a "rolling road block, " but he was unable to get in front of Defendant because Defendant drove over into Detective Jones' lane and struck his truck as he was passing Defendant. Detective Jones testified that he later attempted to drive around Defendant a second time. He noted that Defendant struck his vehicle a total of three times during the pursuit, "there was two times on the right side and one time on the left side of my truck." Detective Jones also testified: "There around the curve, come [sic] a van around the curve, [Defendant] actually went in their lane and forced them off into the emergency lane closer to grass." Detective Jones testified that when Defendant turned onto Pond Ridge Road, Detective Jones missed the turn, and Sergeant Millsaps got behind Defendant and continued the chase. Detective Jones turned around and drove to the residence where Defendant had parked his car and fled on foot.

         Defendant's Proof

         Gary Wayne Church testified that he is a commercial painter and knows Defendant. He learned of Defendant's arrest on December 30, 2010, and at some point went to "Robert Hamilton's, " where Defendant's vehicle had been towed, and took photographs. He identified the driver's side fender of Defendant's Ford Escort and pictures of the broken window and glass in the seat. Mr. Church testified that the only damage to Defendant's car was to the driver's window. He did not see any black paint or other paint transfer on the vehicle.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Church testified that he and Defendant are friends and are in a "ministry together called Appalachian Youth Ministries." He had known Defendant for ten years. Mr. Church admitted that he did not look at Detective Jones' truck. He described Defendant's car as an 80's model with a rubber bumper and no paint on the bumper. He also stated that the bumper was "very, very fragile." Mr. Church admitted that he could not tell if the car had been in an accident because he was not present at the time. He said that his vehicle was not registered in the "Kingdom of Heaven."

         Joan Champion, a realtor, testified that she lives on Pine Ridge Road in Coker Creek. She has known Defendant for "maybe" six or seven years. Defendant worked as a caretaker for her sister's house in Coker Creek. On December 30, 2010, Ms. Champion had been sleeping when Defendant came to her house and asked to use the phone. She said that he seemed to be afraid and in a panic. Ms. Champion thought that she saw blood "somewhere." She thought that it may have been on Defendant's hand.

         Defendant testified that on December 30, 2010, he was living on Pine Ridge Road in Coker Creek. He said that he was in a "full-time ministry as a youth missions coordinator." Defendant did not believe that he was speeding prior to being pulled over by Sergeant Millsaps. He said that when he saw blue lights, he pulled over "just before Mecca Pike, on the right-hand side" shoulder of the road. Defendant testified that he recognized Sergeant Millsaps as he approached Defendant's car because of Sergeant Millsaps "stature and his size." He also indicated that Sergeant Millsaps was present when he had been pulled over "twice before."

         Defendant testified that he presented his driver's license to Sergeant Millsaps. The license was issued by "KOH, " which stands for "Kingdom of Heaven." Defendant said that "KOH" is an organization based out of Oregon. Concerning "KOH, " Defendant testified: "I did some research. I called them. They referred me to the state department. I verified their credentials, and that's how I met them." Defendant said that he believed his driver's license was valid because "they had referred me to the State department and the state department confirmed what they had told me." Defendant testified that he had the "KOH" driver's license for a year, and he had been pulled over in Ranger, North Carolina, but the officer never told him the license was invalid. He said that he had also been pulled over in Decatur, Tennessee and had no reason to believe his license was invalid.

         Concerning his encounter with Detective Millsaps, Defendant testified:

After I handed Mr. Millsaps the license, he had asked for the registration card, so I handed him the registration. At that point, he'd asked me for the insurance. When I went to go for the insurance - - I have a little portfolio with my documents, and when I went to get the insurance papers, he told me to exit the vehicle.
Because it was cold that night, I rolled up my window, and when I went to open the door, I heard a thump, and I couldn't open the door. When I looked up, I heard another - - it wasn't a thump, but it was kind of like a bang, like a noise on the window, and then that - - the first time, I didn't realize it then, but his flashlight had hit the window and bounced off. The second time, it broke the window and hit me in the head. The third time, it came in and then hit me in the face.

         Defendant claimed that he gave Sergeant Millsaps everything that he requested and complied with all of his instructions. He said that he rolled his window up and attempted to open the door when Sergeant Millsaps told him to get out of the car because Defendant "assumed" that the officer was going to place him under arrest. Defendant said that he could not completely open the door because there was a "thump" that he thought was either Sergeant Millsaps' foot or hand against the door. ...

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