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Bettes v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

September 4, 2014

BETTES
v.
THE STATE

Forgery. Henry Superior Court. Before Judge Amero.

Jennifer L. Lewis, for appellant.

James L. Wright III, District Attorney, Ralph Bailey, Jr., Sandra G. Rivers, Assistant District Attorneys, for appellee.

Barnes, P. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 367

Branch, Judge.

Michael Jerome Bettes appeals the denial of his motion for new trial following his conviction on one count of forgery in the first degree. He contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict and that the trial court erred by excluding certain evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

On criminal appeal, appellant is no longer presumed innocent and all of the evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the jury verdict. This Court does not reconsider evidence or attempt to confirm the accuracy of testimony. Assessing a witness's credibility is the responsibility of the factfinder, not this Court.

Batten v. State, 295 Ga. 442, 443 (1) (761 S.E.2d 70) (2014) (citations omitted). Instead, we review the case " to determine if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, supports the verdict." Willis v. State, 263 Ga. 597, 598 (1) (436 S.E.2d 204) (1993), citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). Upon review of the sufficiency of the evidence, " the relevant question 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." Russu v. State, 321 Ga.App. 695, 696 (1) (742 S.E.2d 511) (2013) (applying Jackson v. Virginia in a forgery case) (citation, punctuation and footnote omitted; emphasis in original).

The evidence presented at trial shows that on January 6, 2010, Bettes approached Carol Tate, a teller at McIntosh State Bank in Locust Grove, and presented a check dated January 3, 2010, made out to " Mihael (sic) J Bettes" in the amount of $1,720, that appeared to be drawn on the account of Southeastern Roof Decks, Inc. at the McIntosh State Bank; the check, with the exception of the signature which purported to be that of John Dumas, the owner of Southeastern Roof Decks, was typewritten. Tate was aware that a day or two earlier, another teller at the same bank had cashed, for a different person, a check that proved to be fraudulent that had been drawn on the same account; Tate had been warned to be on alert for another incident. Tate therefore asked for Bettes's identification, which he provided, and Tate told Bettes that she had to obtain verification of the account holder's signature; she then copied Bettes's identification and placed a telephone call to Dumas. Based on that conversation, Tate contacted the police; Officer Curnutt arrived about ten minutes later. [329 Ga.App. 14] During that time, Bettes did not ask for his identification to be returned, and he did not flee. Upon Curnutt's arrival, Bettes cooperated with the officer. Curnutt thereafter arrested Bettes based on his conversation with Tate and Bettes; he did not contact Dumas or anyone else at Southeastern Roof Decks.

Dumas testified that his company, which applies insulating concrete to roofs, has twelve full-time and approximately eight part-time employees, and that it does not hire subcontractors or day laborers. He testified that the signature on the check presented to Tate by Bettes was not Dumas's and that the bank account number thereon was incorrect. Although one person in the company other than Dumas had authority to sign checks, that person does not sign Dumas's name to checks. Dumas had never met Bettes before, did not believe that Bettes had ever worked for Southeastern Roof Decks, and admitted that Bettes probably could not recognize Dumas's signature. Dumas was not aware of an incident occurring a few days before January 6, 2010, involving a different person attempting to cash a fraudulent check drawn on his business's account.

Following the above evidence, the State rested, and Bettes moved for a directed verdict on the ground that the State failed to prove that Bettes knowingly committed forgery. The court denied the motion, concluding that the State had presented circumstantial evidence that Bettes acted knowingly.

Shirley Bettes then testified that immediately prior to January 6, 2010, her husband was not employed permanently but that he would attempt to secure temporary work as a ...


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