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State v. Houser

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 1, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
TOMMY LEE HOUSER, JR.

          Assigned on Briefs September 20, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 105733 Steven W. Sword, Judge.

         A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Tommy Lee Houser, Jr., of felony theft. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court classified the Defendant as a career offender and imposed a mandatory twelve year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence supporting his conviction is insufficient and that the trial court erred in applying the Class D felony offense classification rather than the "new" Class E felony offense classification. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed.

          J. Liddell Kirk (on appeal), and Aubrey Davis (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Tommy Lee Houser, Jr.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Philip H. Morton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.

         I. Facts

         This case arises from a truck being stolen from a car lot in Knoxville, Tennessee. For his role in this offense, a Knox County grand jury indicted the Defendant for theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000, and vandalism of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000. At trial, the parties presented the following evidence: Robert D. Williams testified that he was the sales manager at Manis Motors. On January 20, 2015, Mr. Williams recalled speaking with the Defendant at the car lot about a teal Ford Ranger truck. The Defendant was waiting for some sort of "backpay, " and Mr. Williams told the Defendant, "Well, if it's still here, you can buy it."

         That night, he received a call that the same Ford Ranger truck had been taken from the property. The gates surrounding the car lot had been knocked down. The following morning, the truck was located approximately a half mile from the car lot at Lonsdale Market. The truck was returned to Manis Motors, but it was damaged. Mr. Williams recalled that there was damage to the right front headlight, the hood, the marker light, and that the right rear tire "was busted completely." Mr. Williams estimated the value of the truck at $1, 600 to $1, 800 and the cost of repair to the gates at $1, 400 to $1, 600.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Williams agreed that other individuals had looked at the truck on January 20. No one took the truck on a "test-drive" on that day but prospective drivers had done so on the days leading up to the theft. Mr. Williams recalled that the truck had been on their lot for five or six days at the time it was stolen.

         Michael Cooper, a Knoxville Police Department ("KPD") officer, responded to a call about a hit and run at Manis Motors. When he arrived, he observed damage caused by a vehicle leaving the lot and pushing the fence down. Officer Cooper saw paint transfer on one of the fence posts. The paint was a teal color. Approximately an hour later, Officer Cooper was dispatched to the Lonsdale Market to look for a potential vehicle that might have been connected to the incident at Manis Motors. When he arrived at the location, the Defendant was already in custody.

         After speaking with the initial caller, who reported the "hit and run, " and the owner of Manis Motors, Officer Cooper was able to conclude that a Ford Ranger was missing from the lot. At the Lonsdale Market, Officer Cooper noticed that the truck the Defendant had been driving was a similar color to the paint transfer from the damaged fence at Manis Motors, as well as the same make and model as the vehicle missing from the car lot. Officer Cooper confirmed that the vehicle ...


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