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Mason v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

January 24, 2014


Page 398

Benjamin David Goldberg, for Appellant.

Amelia Greeson Pray, D. Victor Reynolds, Marietta, for Appellee.

BARNES, Presiding Judge.

A jury convicted Charles Edwin Mason of one count of burglary, one count of criminal trespass, two counts of possession of tools for the commission of a crime, one count of felony theft by taking, and two counts of forgery in the second degree. The trial court denied his motion for new trial, resulting in the present appeal in which Mason argues that the trial court erroneously denied his right to self-representation and failed to discharge his trial counsel; that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance; and that his prior convictions were improperly

Page 399

admitted for the purpose of impeachment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

" Following a criminal conviction, the defendant is no longer presumed innocent, and we view the evidence in the light most favorable to sustain the verdict." Anthony v. State, 317 Ga.App. 807, 732 S.E.2d 845 (2012). Guided by this standard, we turn to the evidence presented in this case.

The Furnished Townhouse Break-In.

In the early morning hours of June 21, 2011, police officers were dispatched to a residential address in Cobb County in response to a security alarm that had been triggered. The address was for a furnished model townhouse in a newly built subdivision. The responding officers discovered that a side window to the townhouse had been pushed open and had glove prints on it. Upon entering the townhouse, the officers noticed that a television had been removed from a bracket on the living room wall [325 Ga.App. 610] and had been taken from the home. In an upstairs bedroom, the officers noticed that another television had been moved, as if someone had attempted to remove it from the wall bracket. Some of the bedding from the master bedroom also had been taken.

When the officers continued their search outside the townhouse, they discovered a flat screen television together with a pillow and comforter in the bushes. The pillow and comforter matched the bedding that had been taken from the master bedroom, and a salesperson employed by the subdivision developer who had an office in the furnished townhouse identified the television as the one that had been mounted on the living room wall. Believing that the perpetrator might still be in the area, more officers and the tactical SWAT unit arrived to establish a perimeter around the subdivision and to check neighboring townhouses. A K9 unit also arrived at the scene but was unable to track a scent.

The Vacant Townhouse Break-In.

As the tactical SWAT team searched a vacant townhouse located a few doors down on the same road in the subdivision, they noticed that a string to the attic door was swaying and that there was some insulation on the carpet floor below the door. When one of the officers looked around the attic, he noticed something red protruding from the white insulation. Believing that someone was hiding underneath the insulation, the officer ordered the person to show his hands. The person hiding in the insulation was Defendant Mason, who complied with the officer's directive and started to move toward him. As Mason approached the officer, he stepped on the drywall between the wooden trusses and fell through the ceiling into a bathtub right below the attic. Another officer immediately apprehended Mason.

In the attic near where Mason had been hiding, officers found a ball cap, a pair of work gloves, and a backpack. Inside the backpack were several items, including a television power cord that fit the television found in the bushes and a pair of needle-nose pliers. The weave and texture on the palms of the work gloves appeared consistent with the prints found on the side window of the furnished townhouse that had been burglarized.

Later that morning, the police were called back to the vacant townhouse to retrieve additional items that had been discovered there. A project manager for the subdivision had been repairing the bathroom in the townhouse and had discovered a wallet, a personal check, and a set of keys underneath the insulation that had fallen into the bathtub where Mason crashed through the ceiling. A second personal check subsequently was found underneath the insulation by a worker repairing the drywall.

[325 Ga.App. 611] The wallet found in the bathtub contained the driver's license of an individual named Reginald Degraffenreaidt and a Strayer University identification card that had his name but Mason's photo on it. Further investigation revealed that Degraffenreaidt did not know Mason, and that his wallet recently had been stolen from the armrest of his vehicle.

The First Forged Check.

The first check found in the bathtub belonged to an individual named Brett Barksdale, who did not realize that his check was missing until he was contacted by the police. Barksdale kept his checkbook in the glove compartment of his car, and the missing check had been removed

Page 400

from the middle of his checkbook. The check was made payable to Reginald Degraffenreaidt and was signed, but Barksdale did not know Degraffenreaidt and the signature on the check was not his. According to Barksdale, the check had been blank the last time it was in his possession.

The Second Forged Check.

The second check belonged to an individual named Remy Bulbekian, who also did not realize that he was missing the check until contacted by the police. The check had been removed from the middle of his checkbook in his car. Like the first check, the second check was made payable to Reginald Degraffenreaidt and was signed. Bulbekian testified that he did not know Degraffenreaidt, the ...

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