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Harris v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

August 20, 2014

HARRIS
v.
THE STATE

Burglary, etc. McDuffie Superior Court. Before Judge Dunaway.

S. Cindy Wang, for appellant.

Dennis C. Sanders, District Attorney, Durwood R. Davis, Kevin R. Majeska, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellee.

Andrews, P. J., and McFadden, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 134

Ray, Judge.

Following a bench trial, Gary Jerome Harris was convicted of burglary (OCGA § 16-7-1) and felony theft by taking (OCGA § 16-8-2). He appeals from his convictions and the denial of his motion for new trial, contending that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of burglary and that the State failed to prove that he unlawfully took automobile parts exceeding $100 in value. We affirm the convictions. However, we find that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Harris had stolen automobile parts that exceeded $100 in value. Therefore, we vacate the felony sentence for the theft by taking offense and remand the case with direction that the conviction and sentence be entered for misdemeanor theft by taking.

In determining sufficiency of the evidence, the proper inquiry is " whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Stokes v. State, 317 Ga.App. 435, 436 (731 S.E.2d 118) (2012).

In a bench trial, the trial court sits as the trier of fact and its findings cannot be set aside unless they are clearly erroneous. In Georgia, it is well-settled that the clearly erroneous [328 Ga.App. 853] standard for reviewing findings of fact is equivalent to the highly deferential any evidence test.

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Id.

The evidence shows that Richard Dozier owned a 31-acre plot of land located in McDuffie County where he once operated an automobile recycling business known as Yodo's, Incorporated. On that land were two buildings in which he stored a substantial inventory of used automobile parts, including stockpiled radiators. Yodo's had closed several months prior to the incident at issue here, and Dozier secured the property with a fence and two padlocked gates. He testified that only his employees had permission to go onto the property.

On the morning of May 31, 2012, two of Dozier's employees went to the property to perform a security check. As they neared the front entrance, they observed a black Saturn inside the premises leaving through the back gate of the property. When the employees went to intercept the vehicle, the vehicle swerved off the side of the road to get around the employees' van and then drove away. As it did, one of the employees recognized the driver as a man known by the nickname " Easy Fly," later identified as Harris. The employees also observed about five or six radiators in the back of the vehicle of a same or similar nature to those stored in the warehouse.

Upon investigation of the premises, the padlock on the rear gate of the property had been cut with bolt cutters and had been reinserted to appear locked, commonly referred to by law enforcement as a " dummy" lock. Multiple tire tracks led through that gate and to a loading dock ...


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