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State v. Groomster

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 30, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs January 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County Nos. 2014-C-1591, 2017-B-1407 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge

         A Davidson County Jury in Case No. 2017-C-1591 convicted Defendant, Rashida Tyquisha Groomster, of theft of property over $1, 000 in value. She also pled guilty to theft of property less than $1, 000 in value in Case No. 2017-B-1407. The trial court initially imposed an effective one-year sentence to be served in confinement. However, an amended judgment was subsequently entered indicating that Defendant was to serve her effective one-year sentence on community corrections. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction for theft of property over $1, 000 in value, that the trial court improperly denied her request for judicial diversion, and the trial court erred by denying alternative sentencing. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

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

          David von Wiegandt, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rashida Tyquisha Groomster.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Megan King and Jordan Hoffman, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr. and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.




         Guilty Plea Submission Hearing, Case No. 2017-C-1591

         The facts of the case as set forth by the State at the guilty plea submission hearing are as follows:

Your Honor, in Case No. 2017-C-1591, this case actually happened on the same day as the trial case. This happened just an hour or so before the facts Your Honor heard at trial. And so on April the 19th of 2017, around noon, [Defendant] went into the Plato's Closet at 72 White Bridge Road. There, she picked up several items of clothing and concealed them in her purse and left. And I believe her codefendants may have also been present at the time as well.

         Trial, Case No. 2017-B-1407

         Jeffrey Mani testified that he was working as a loss prevention investigator for Saks Fifth Avenue located in the Opry Mills Mall on April 19, 2017, when he heard an announcement over the radio that three women were running out of the store with merchandise. Mr. Mani looked up at the surveillance monitor in the security office, which showed the entrance from the store into the mall, and he saw three women, later identified as Defendant, Mykoiya Daly, and Defendant's sister, Rashika Groomster, running out of the store. There were "stacks of items in their hand." Mr. Mani testified that he could not tell from the monitor what specific clothing items that the three women were carrying. He said that the assistant store manager, Kimberly Sanders, was running after Defendant, Ms. Daly, and Rashika Groomster, who were heading toward a mall exit into the parking lot. Mr. Mani ran to the front of the store in an attempt to intercept the three women; however, they ran out into the parking lot and entered a waiting vehicle. He saw a total of five people in the vehicle. Mr. Mani then saw an unmarked police car with its emergency lights on approach the vehicle in the parking lot, and the driver immediately pulled over. Mr. Mani informed the officer that the occupants of the vehicle had stolen merchandise from the Saks Fifth Avenue Store. He said that jean shorts with the tags still attached were recovered from the vehicle.

         Mr. Mani later reviewed the video from the store's surveillance camera and saw Defendant, Ms. Daly, and Rashika Groomster enter the store and casually walk through the store, "around shoes, and then into the women's department where they approached the large long table with different jean shorts on them, and then each of them grabbed a stack; and then I think that's when Ms. Sanders saw them and started running after them." Mr. Mani testified that he saw the three women exit the mall with the clothing, and he never saw them pay for the merchandise. He said that there were a total of thirty-three items stolen with a value of $1, 479.67 before tax.

         Ms. Sanders testified that at approximately 1:30 p.m. on April 19, 2017, she observed three women shoplifting in the store. Ms. Sanders admitted that she was unable to get a good look at the women's faces to be able to identify them again. Concerning the circumstances of the offense, Ms. Sanders testified:

I was in the department straightening up close to the mall entrance. Periodically, just want to keep looking around at the area. Saw three individuals running towards the mall entrance, which I was parallel to, obviously know now that they're about to exit the building. They [were] running at full speed. The store sensormatic went off. I took off after them.

         Ms. Sanders testified that all three women had denim shorts in their hands, and they ran out into the mall toward the exit into the parking lot. Ms. Sanders said that she chased the women into the parking lot "almost past the main roadway into like the first part of the parking lot of the store, in front of my store." Ms. Sanders noted that she communicated with Mr. Mani and others by radio while she was chasing the individuals.

         Ms. Sanders testified that there was an undercover Metropolitan Nashville police officer in an unmarked vehicle in the parking lot who saw her chasing the three women. The officer activated his blue lights and took over the pursuit. Mr. Mani was also in the parking lot at the time. Ms. Sanders testified that Mr. Mani and the officer returned the stolen merchandise to her, and she scanned it through a cash register to make a record of the items that were taken and to determine the value of each item. Ms. Sanders testified that the total value of the items before tax was $1, 479.67, and the total after tax was $1, 616.49. Ms. Sanders noted that each pair of shorts still had the price tag and security tag attached to them.

         Officer Brandon Whittaker of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department testified that he was working on April 19, 2017, as a "Hermitage day flex officer" assigned to the Opry Mills Mall. He explained that the "flex team consisted of six officers and one sergeant. They use crime maps to determine my [daily] activities." Officer Whittaker testified that he was assigned to the Opry Mills Mall primarily to detect and apprehend shoplifters. Officer Whittaker testified that he was sitting in the mall parking lot in his unmarked patrol car on April 19, 2017, looking for "suspicious vehicles and persons." There were other officers walking around inside the mall. At approximately 1:30 p.m. he noticed three females running from the main entrance of the mall. He testified:

Each female came running out with just armloads full of clothing. I couldn't really tell what it was, but I knew that there was clothing without shopping bags. Shortly behind them was the [loss prevention officer] for Saks Fifth Avenue chasing behind. I turned on my blue lights to get their attention to let them know that I was the police and I was coming for them. And as I rolled past the security, the [loss prevention officer], he explained that they stole the items.

         Officer Whittaker identified the three women running from the mall as Defendant, Ms. Daly, and Rashika Groomster. He said that the three women got into a silver Ford Focus with the clothing. He saw Ms. Daly get into the front passenger seat, Rashika Groomster got into the center of the back seat, and Defendant got into the passenger side back seat. Officer Whittaker testified that there "were two other individuals inside the vehicle - one in the driver seat, Brianna something or another," and the mother of Defendant and Rashika Groomster was in ...

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