Filed October 31, 2006.
Appeal from the District Court, Anoka County, File No. K1-04-5068.
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, and Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Kristin C. Larson, Assistant County Attorney, (for respondent).
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Theodora Gaitas, Assistant Public Defender, (for appellant).
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Kalitowski, Judge.
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
Appellant challenges his conviction for possessing stolen property, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. We affirm.
On January 19, 2004 Martin Rolek, an employee at Schwartzman's, a scrap processing company, worked the scales. Rolek weighed customers' vehicles both before and after scrap was unloaded in order to compute the weight of the scrap. The weight dictated how much Schwartzman's would pay the customer. He also determined the type of metal the customer brought to sell. For each vehicle, Rolek prepared a "scale ticket," a document that stated the weight of the scrap in the vehicle, the type of metal, and a description identifying the vehicle dropping off the scrap. On January 19, 2004, Rolek prepared a scale ticket for a blue van with the numbers 312 on its license plate that was delivering 2,560 pounds of aluminum clips. Schwartzman's employee, Richard Palm, helped to unload the aluminum clips into a hopper and recognized the clips to be the distinctive type of scrap that Copper Sales, an industrial client in Anoka County, recycles. That an individual was dropping off Copper Sales scrap struck Palm as unusual, because typically Schwartzman's would go to Copper Sales and pick up the scrap for them.
Palm informed Rolek of the unusual situation, and Rolek reported it to the owner, John Schwartzman. Schwartzman told Rolek to pay the customer but to make a copy of the customer's driver's license and to write down the license plate number of his vehicle. Rolek did this and then paid the customer $1,024 in cash for the scrap aluminum. Schwartzman called Barry Taran of Copper Sales to inform him that Schwartzman's had received scrap metal that looked like Copper Sales material. Taran came to Schwartzman's to inspect the scrap, and he recognized the metal as two types of custom-fabricated aluminum that Copper Sales had designed. After confirming that the scrap at Schwartzman's had come from Copper Sales, Taran called the police.
Officer Schneider took a report from Taran and photographed the Copper Sales scrap in the hopper at Schwartzman's. Officer Schneider also collected the information that scale operator Rolek had obtained from appellant Danyl Vlasyuk, including a copy of his driver's license and the license plate number of the vehicle he was driving. The driver's license belonged to appellant, and the license plate number belonged to a blue van that is registered to Vasily Vlasyuk, appellant's brother.
During a non-custodial interview, appellant admitted that he had gone to Schwartzman's on January 19, 2004, but denied selling scrap aluminum that day. Appellant claimed that he brought in some cans and radiators instead. Appellant testified at trial that he was not sure if he drove his brother's van on January 19 but stated that he and his brothers had used the van to bring scrap to Schwartzman's in the past. The only thing appellant found unusual on January 19 was that Schwartzman's required him to produce his driver's license, of which they made a photocopy.
Subsequently, appellant was charged in Anoka County District Court with possession of stolen property under Minn. Stat. § 609.53, subd. 1 (2004) and Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 3(3) (2004). He pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial. The jury found appellant guilty of receiving stolen property in excess of $500 but not more than $2,500. This appeal followed.
When considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court's review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the fact finder to reach the verdict that it did. See State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the fact finder, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. Bernhardt v. State, 684 N.W.2d 465, 476-77 (Minn. 2004). Because the jury is in the best position to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, an appellate court should assume that the jury believed the witnesses' testimony that supported the verdict and disbelieved any contradicting evidence. State v. Henderson, 620 N.W.2d 688, 705 (Minn. 2001); see also State v. Doppler, 590 N.W.2d 627, 635 (Minn. 1999) ("Deciding the credibility of witnesses is generally the exclusive province of the jury.").
A person is guilty of possession of stolen property if he "receives, possesses, transfers, buys, or conceals any stolen property or property obtained by robbery, knowing or having reason to know the property was stolen or obtained by robbery." Minn. Stat. § 609.53, subd. 1 (2004). Appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him. We find the record contains sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. On the element of whether the goods were stolen, Richard Palm, a Schwartzman's employee, testified that he noticed that the scrap brought in by the blue van on January 19, 2004, looked like scrap metal that was unique to Copper Sales. Palm grew suspicious upon recognizing the aluminum scrap as coming from Copper Sales, because Schwartzman's always picked up the Copper Sales scrap at their business site. Also, Barry Taran, the general manager of Copper Sales, testified that Copper Sales does not simply discard its scrap, but instead it sells the scrap to scrap metal processors and dealers such as Schwartzman's. Taran also testified that the scrap at Schwartzman's that he identified was a custom-fabricated product of Copper Sales. From the testimony of Palm and Taran, the jury could reasonably conclude that the scrap metal in question constituted stolen property.
Regarding the element of identifying appellant as the customer that brought in the stolen scrap metal, Schwartzman employee Rolek testified that he obtained the driver's license of the individual who brought in the scrap aluminum believed to be from Copper Sales. He then made a photocopy of the license, which belonged to appellant. Although appellant argues that "Rolek's testimony was questionable," because "[h]e acknowledged that he dealt with numerous customers each day in a chaotic setting," it was within the province of the jury to determine Rolek's credibility. See Doppler, 590 N.W.2d at 635. From Rolek's testimony and the photocopy of appellant's license, the jury could reasonably conclude that appellant was the customer that brought in the stolen scrap aluminum.
While appellant testified that he brought in only aluminum cans and radiators on January 19, 2004, the state refuted this with witness testimony and other evidence such as photographs of the scrap and a photocopy of appellant's license taken at Schwartzman's. The jury was free to disbelieve appellant's version of events. See Doppler, 590 N.W.2d at 635 (stating that determination of witness credibility is exclusive province of jury). Finally, the statute requires the state to prove that appellant knew or had reason to know the property was stolen. Minn. Stat. § 609.53, subd. 1. "We have long recognized that intent cannot always be shown by direct proof." State v. Carter, 293 Minn. 102, 104, 196 N.W.2d 607, 609 (1972). The court in Carter stated that "[d]efendant's lack of a satisfactory explanation for his possession of the stolen property is evidence that he knew it was stolen. This alone is enough evidence to take the issue to the jury." Id. (citing State v. Boykin, 285 Minn. 276, 279, 172 N.W.2d 754, 757 (1969)). The state demonstrated that according to the daily log at Schwartzman's, appellant did not bring in radiators on January 19, 2004. And, the state argued that the only reason appellant would lie about what he brought to Schwartzman's that day is that he knew the aluminum was stolen. Taking this into account, the jury could infer that appellant knew or had reason to know that the scrap metal was stolen.
Appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to proof of the value of the scrap aluminum.