Peoplev.Hunting

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (San Joaquin)Dec 2, 2019
C086610 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 2, 2019)

C086610

12-02-2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. EDWARD EUGENE HUNTING II, Defendant and Appellant.


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115. (Super. Ct. No. MANCRFE20160001310)

Sentenced to prison after the trial court found he had violated probation, defendant Edward Eugene Hunting II contends there was insufficient evidence to support the court's finding. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 2016, defendant pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an elder (Pen. Code, § 368, subd. (d)) in exchange for the dismissal of six other theft-related charges. The trial court suspended imposition of sentence and placed him on five years of formal probation.

In 2017, the People filed a petition to violate defendant's probation, alleging as relevant to this appeal that he had violated Vehicle Code section 10851, subdivision (a), and Penal Code section 496d.

At a joint preliminary hearing and probation revocation hearing, the People presented the following evidence:

On May 25, 2017, Brett C. drove his red 1991 Buick Riviera to work in Livermore, parked it, left his wallet and keys in the car, and went inside. When he came out at lunchtime, the car was gone. He had not given anyone permission to use it, and he did not know defendant, Jessica T., or Kayla B.

Four days later, Officer Michael Richards observed defendant exiting from the driver's seat of a car in a grocery store parking lot in Tracy at 3:30 a.m. Knowing defendant from prior contacts, the officer ran the car's license plate and learned the car had been reported stolen to the Livermore Police Department on May 25, 2017. A female in the passenger seat, Jessica T., said defendant had picked her up in the car the day before; she said she did not know the car was stolen.

When defendant returned, he had the keys to the car clipped on his belt. Detained by the officer, defendant said that the previous Friday—the day after the car was stolen—he was picked up by Kayla B. (a person known to the Tracy Police Department as a car thief) and "Kevin" and taken to Livermore, where they let him "borrow" the car. The officer did not observe any damage to the car's ignition or steering column.

Defendant did not testify, and there is no supplemental probation report in the record. Thus, there is no evidence as to whether defendant explained how he met Kayla B. and Kevin, whether he knew of Kayla B.'s reputation, or why their offer to let him "borrow" a car after a brief acquaintance did not strike him as suspicious. --------

Defense counsel argued that there was no evidence defendant drove the car and that its value had not been shown to exceed $950. Based on that evidence, counsel requested a misdemeanor finding. He did not argue that defendant was unaware the car was stolen.

The prosecutor pointed out that Jessica T. had said defendant drove it the day before he was detained.

The trial court found sufficient evidence to hold defendant over on both counts charged (but as misdemeanors, not felonies), and also found he was in violation of probation for violating Vehicle Code section 10851, subdivision (a). The court thereafter imposed the low term of two years in prison for defendant's elder-theft offense.

DISCUSSION

The People must prove a probation violation by a preponderance of the evidence. (Evid. Code, § 520; People v. Rodriguez (1990) 51 Cal.3d 437, 441; People v. Galvan (2007) 155 Cal.App.4th 978, 982.) The evidence must support the conclusion that the probationer willfully violated the terms and conditions of probation. (Galvan, at p. 982.)

In assessing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's decision to revoke probation, we apply the substantial evidence standard. We review the evidence, including the reasonable inferences from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the judgment, and will not reverse merely because the circumstances might have supported a contrary finding. (People v. Baker (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 463, 468-469; People v. Kurey (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 840, 848-849.)

The evidence, viewed most favorably to the judgment, showed defendant was in possession of a recently stolen car that he claimed he had been given or lent for no apparent reason by two people he had just met under unexplained circumstances, and who drove him from one town to another to present him with the car. The implausibility of that story gives rise to the reasonable inference that, even if defendant did not know of Kayla B.'s reputation as a car thief, he could not have taken possession of the car innocently. (See People v. Vann (1974) 12 Cal.3d 220, 224; People v. Anderson (1989) 210 Cal.App.3d 414, 421 [only slight corroboration needed to prove possessor of recently stolen property knew it was stolen].) The trial court impliedly found defendant possessed the car knowing it to be stolen. Substantial evidence supports that finding, which also established that defendant willfully violated the term of his probation requiring him to obey all laws. (People v. Galvan, supra, 155 Cal.App.4th at p. 982.)

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed.

/s/_________

BLEASE, P. J. We concur: /s/_________
DUARTE, J. /s/_________
RENNER, J.