Session January 10, 2017
by Permission from the Court of Criminal Appeals Criminal
Court for Campbell County No. 15070 E. Shayne Sexton, Judge.
granted the State's application for permission to appeal
in this case in order to determine whether the Court of
Criminal Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was
not sufficient to support the Defendant's conviction of
aggravated stalking. The Court of Criminal Appeals reduced
the Defendant's conviction to misdemeanor stalking after
concluding that the State had not adduced sufficient evidence
to establish that the Defendant knowingly violated an order
of protection. We hold that the Court of Criminal Appeals
misapplied the standard of review and so committed reversible
error. Because the proof was sufficient to support the
jury's determination that the Defendant had actual
knowledge of the order of protection issued against him on
August 20, 2010, the evidence is sufficient to support the
Defendant's conviction of aggravated stalking.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal
Appeals and reinstate the trial court's judgment.
R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of
Criminal Appeals Reversed; Judgment of the Trial Court
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Andrew C.
Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; William Paul Phillips,
District Attorney General; and Leif E. Jeffers, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellant, the State of
Michael G. Hatmaker, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the appellee,
Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court,
in which Cornelia A. Clark, Sharon G. Lee, Holly Kirby, and
Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.
JEFFREY S. BIVINS, CHIEF JUSTICE.
and Procedural Background
Defendant, Rodney Stephens, was charged with one count of
domestic assault and one count of aggravated stalking. A jury
acquitted the Defendant of the domestic assault charge and
convicted him of the aggravated stalking charge. The trial
court sentenced the Defendant to two years of incarceration,
suspended to three years of probation after sixty days of
confinement. The Defendant appealed, and the Court of
Criminal Appeals concluded that the evidence was insufficient
to support his conviction. State v. Stephens, No.
E2014-02514-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 81386, at *10 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Jan. 6, 2016). Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals
felony conviction to the misdemeanor conviction of stalking.
Id. We granted the State's application for
permission to appeal in order to determine whether the Court
of Criminal Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was
not sufficient to support the Defendant's conviction of
Defendant's jury trial, Jessica Stephens testified that
she and the Defendant married in 2004 and had two children
together. On the evening of August 19, 2010, the Defendant
accosted her in her car as she was parked waiting to pick up
a pizza. According to Ms. Stephens, the Defendant banged on
the driver's side window, jerked open the car door, and
physically assaulted her. When the headlights of another
vehicle illuminated them, the Defendant backed away and she
was able to close her door and drive away. Ms. Stephens
called the police and drove to a gas station. The Defendant
also drove to the gas station and verbally accosted Ms.
Stephens inside the store. The police arrived shortly
thereafter, arrested the Defendant, and took the Defendant to
next morning, August 20, 2010, Ms. Stephens obtained an order
of protection against the Defendant. Later that morning, she
received a phone call from the Sheriff's Department
notifying her that the Defendant had been released. Ms.
Stephens testified that, during the phone call, she was told
that the Defendant "had been served with his order of
protection." Ms. Stephens identified a nine-page
collection of documents that contained a two-page application
for an order of protection, a five-page document titled
"Petition for Orders of Protection" ("the
Petition"), and a two-page document titled "Ex
Parte Order of Protection" ("the Order of
Protection"). This collection of documents was admitted
into evidence as a single exhibit ("the Exhibit").
The Petition indicates that it was personally served on the
Defendant "on 20th, 2010 [sic] at 10:10 a.m." by
David Goin. The Order of Protection was signed by a judge and
was issued on August 20, 2010. The Order of Protection
provides, inter alia, that the Defendant "shall
not commit or threaten to commit abuse, domestic abuse,
stalking or sexual assault against [Ms. Stephens] or [Ms.
Stephens'] minor children" and that the Defendant
"shall not telephone, contact, or otherwise communicate
with [Ms. Stephens], directly or indirectly." The
"Return of Service" section of the Order of
Protection is blank.
during the day of August 20, 2010, Ms. Stephens and the
Defendant had another encounter. She testified that, as she
was driving with her father to the residence she shared with
the Defendant, she passed the Defendant and the
Defendant's mother "coming from the house."
When the two cars passed each other going in opposite
directions, the car in which the Defendant was riding
"stopped and turned around in the road and started
following" the car that Ms. Stephens was in. The
Defendant's mother was driving the other car, and the
other car "actually attempted to block [her] in" at
a church. Ms. Stephens called the police, and the police
arrived and arrested the Defendant. She did not remember if
the Defendant got out of the car during their encounter.
the first of September 2010, Ms. Stephens was in the Verizon
store paying her bill when she heard a "banging
noise." When she turned to see the source of the noise,
she saw the Defendant "walking and hitting the window .
. . telling [her] to come outside." Ms. Stephens
remained in the store. She stated that the Defendant's
actions scared her. The police arrived and arrested the
in September 2010, after Ms. Stephens had moved to a
different residence, she saw the Defendant driving up and
down the road in front of her house. Ms. Stephens and her
daughter were in the front yard. She stated that the
Defendant "cuss[ed]" at her, "flipped [her]
off, " and yelled at her daughter that "he was
gonna get her." Ms. Stephens took her daughter into the
house. She saw the Defendant drive around "one or two
more times." After she no longer saw him, she left to
drive to her grandmother's house. As she was pulling into
a gas station, she saw the Defendant behind her. The
Defendant circled her vehicle and then stopped "[o]n the
other side" of the gas station. Ms. Stephens called 911
and "took off."
Stephens added that, while she was at the gas station, the
Defendant called her cell phone from a number she did not
recognize. When she answered, the Defendant told her that he
was going to hurt her and that she would "pay for
this." Ms. Stephens emphasized that she was afraid of
Leper testified that he assisted Ms. Stephens in the Verizon
store where he worked in September 2010. He recalled someone
motioning at the window from outside for Ms. Stephens to come
outside and that Ms. Stephens became very nervous. Mr. Leper
noticed that Ms. Stephens' hands were shaking badly. Mr.
Leper called 911 and the police arrived and arrested the
person who had motioned to Ms. Stephens. Jeffrey McMann
testified that he began dating Ms. Stephens in late September
or early October 2010. He knew the Defendant only as Ms.
Ken Daugherty of the Campbell County Sheriff's Department
responded to the August 20 incident involving the
Defendant's riding in his mother's car. Deputy
Daugherty testified that he asked the Defendant "if he
had his order of protection with him." According to
Deputy Daugherty, the Defendant "actually had the
paperwork with him" and showed it to the deputy. The
prosecutor then handed Deputy Daugherty the Exhibit and asked
him if he had "seen that document before." Deputy
Daugherty responded, "It does look familiar to me, but
one of my primary jobs is to serve orders of
protection." Asked if the Defendant had denied knowing
about the Order of Protection, Deputy Daugherty stated,
"He didn't." Nor, according to Deputy
Daugherty, did the Defendant "act surprised to find it
in his . . . possession."
Defendant testified and acknowledged that he approached Ms.
Stephens as she sat in her car near the pizza parlor on
August 19, 2010. He stated that he spoke with her through the
car window, which was partially down. He stated that he did
not open the car door and that he did not touch Ms. Stephens.
When she called the police, he left. When he later pulled
into the Exxon, he saw her car. He went into the store and
called her a liar. He was subsequently arrested and taken to
jail for the night. Asked if he was "served with a
petition for order of protection while [he was] in jail,
" the Defendant testified, "I really don't know
if I was. I believe I was served with a-something. I was
served with some-I don't know. Yeah, I don't know if
it's an actual order of protection or what it was, but I
was served with something."
next day (August 20), his mother came and made his bail, and
he left with her. She drove him to his residence because he
thought his truck had been towed there. When he learned that
his truck was not at his residence, they turned around and
headed back toward town. As they were driving back toward
town, they passed Ms. Stephens and Mr. McMann driving
together in Mr. McMann's truck. The Defendant stated that he
was calling the police trying to locate his truck. The police
arrived and arrested him and took him back to jail.
Defendant testified that he filed for divorce from Ms.
Stephens on August 24, 2010.
Defendant stated that, on September 1, 2010, he pulled into
the Verizon parking lot where he saw Mr. McMann. The
Defendant stated that he did not see Ms. Stephens in the
store and that he "went to approach to talk to Jeff
McMann." He and Mr. McMann "had an exchange of
words" outside the store in the parking lot for several
minutes. The Defendant did not see Ms. Stephens until she
came out of the store after the police arrived.
Defendant testified that, beginning on September 20, 2010, he
was in Alabama working. He stated that he did not know where
Ms. Stephens was living at that time. He ...