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Moore v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

February 1, 2017

MOORE
v.
THE STATE.

          BARNES, P. J., RICKMAN and BETHEL, JJ.

          BETHEL, JUDGE.

         Vincent Tyrone Moore appeals from the denial of his motion for a new trial. Moore argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for false imprisonment and that the trial court erred in sentencing him for two counts of armed robbery where both counts arose from a single transaction involving a single victim. Because the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction for false imprisonment, we affirm. But we vacate Moore's armed robbery conviction with respect to Count 3 because Moore could be convicted of and sentenced for only one robbery.

         "On appeal, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to support the verdict, and the appellant no longer enjoys a presumption of innocence." Culver v. State, 230 Ga.App. 224, 224 (496 S.E.2d 292) (1998) (citing Williams v. State, 228 Ga.App. 698, 699 (1) (492 S.E.2d 708) (1997)). So viewed, the evidence shows that Moore ambushed A. J., who was leaving a restaurant where she worked after it had closed for the evening, revealing what Moore represented to be a gun[1] hidden under his shirt. Moore shoved A. J. back into the store. Moore continued to shove A. J. toward the counter, and then ordered her to lie on the floor and not move. Another employee, T. R., who had witnessed the initial encounter between Moore and A. J., ran to alert the manager that they were being robbed. T. R. activated the silent alarm in the back of the store and then hid.

         Moore subsequently approached the back of the store, and confronted the store manager and two other employees. Moore ordered the manager and another employee to open the safe, but the manager explained he was not able to do so because it was on a time-lock. Moore began counting to ten, saying he did not believe the manager. Once it became clear the manager was unable to get into the safe, Moore took the contents of the register, after being informed by the manager that it was the only money accessible in the store, as well as the manager's wallet. Moore then ordered the manager to lie on the floor.

         At approximately 10:52 p.m., a police officer received a call from dispatch in response to the silent alarm being activated at the restaurant. Upon approaching the restaurant less than a minute after receiving the call, the officer witnessed Moore run across the street. The officer chased Moore and ordered him to stop and drop his weapon, which Moore did not do, and the officer lost him. Less than an hour later, another officer found Moore hiding nearby and was able to arrest Moore after a brief struggle. The manager's wallet was found approximately one foot from where Moore had fought the arresting officer, and the same amount of money missing from the wallet was found on Moore's person. The precise amount of money taken from the restaurant's register was also found near Moore's person. After being advised of his Miranda rights, Moore spontaneously volunteered that he had robbed the restaurant because a gang that was providing housing for his family had demanded that he do so.

         Moore was convicted of obstruction with violence, two counts of armed robbery, five counts of false imprisonment, and one count of simple battery. Moore filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied following a hearing. This appeal followed.

         1. Moore first argues, and the State concedes, that the trial court erred in sentencing him on two counts of armed robbery. Count 2 charged Moore with using an unknown weapon to take $15.60 from the restaurant's cash register in the manager's presence, and Count 3 charged Moore with using an unknown weapon to take the manager's wallet and $20 contained inside. Moore was found guilty on both counts and was sentenced to life without parole for both convictions, with his sentence for Count 3 to run concurrent with his sentence for Counts 2.

Robbery is a crime against possession, and is not affected by concepts of ownership. Similarly, one may only rob a person, and not a corporate entity, or an object such as a cash drawer. It follows that since there was only one victim, the [manager], who was by this single transaction despoiled of his possession of both his own money and his employer's money, there was only one robbery.

Randolph v. State, 246 Ga.App. 141, 144 (1) (538 S.E.2d 139) (2000) (citations and punctuation omitted). We agree with Moore and the State that only one armed robbery occurred. See Jones v. State, 279 Ga. 854, 857 (3) (622 S.E.2d 1) (2005) ("[W]here one victim is robbed of multiple items in a single transaction, only one robbery is committed."); Bland v. State, 264 Ga. 610, 612 (4) (449 S.E.2d 116) (1994); Creecy v. State, 235 Ga. 542, 544 (5) (221 S.E.2d 17) (1975). Consequently, the trial court erred in entering a separate judgment of conviction and sentence for armed robbery as alleged in Count 3 of the indictment. That judgment of conviction is vacated, and the trial court is directed to strike the sentence imposed on the third count. Randolph, 246 Ga.App. at 144 (1).

         2. Moore next argues that there was insufficient evidence to support one of his false imprisonment convictions. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Moore falsely imprisoned the victim in question - as to this count, the employee T. R.

         When we review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, "[w]e neither weigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses, but determine only whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Otuwa v. State, 319 Ga.App. 339, 339-40 (734 S.E.2d 273) (2012) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979)) (punctuation omitted). "To sustain a conviction for false imprisonment, the State must show evidence of an arrest, confinement, [2] or detention, and detention for a brief amount of time is sufficient." Pierce v. State, 301 Ga.App. 167, 169 (1) (c) (687 S.E.2d 185) (2009); OCGA § 16-5-41(a). "It is for the jury to decide if the detention amounted to false imprisonment." Pierce, 301 Ga.App. at 169 (1) (c). Once the confinement or detention has occurred, "the offense is complete notwithstanding that the victim may thereafter effect an escape." Kiser v. State, 327 Ga.App. 17, 19 (2) (755 S.E.2d 505) (2014) (quoting Herrin v. State, 229 Ga.App. 260, 263 (3) (493 S.E.2d 634) (1997)) (punctuation omitted).

         In his appeal, Moore argues there was no evidence showing that T. R. was ever confined or detained, as Moore was unaware of her presence. T. R. did not testify at trial. But other employees testified that T. R. observed Moore accosting A. J. as A. J. was attempting to leave the restaurant through the front door. When Moore confronted A. J., Moore revealed what appeared to be a gun hidden under his shirt and forced her back into the restaurant. Moore then ordered A. J. to lie on the floor. T. R., who was watching A. J. leave as a safety precaution, observed enough of this confrontation that she then ran to alert the manager that they were being robbed, and then activated the silent alarm in the back of the store and hid. The testimony from the other employees about T. R.'s actions - observing the encounter between Moore and A. J., retreating from the front door of the store to warn the manager of the robbery, activating the silent alarm, and hiding in the back of the store - constitute sufficient evidence for the jury to determine that she was detained against her will. See, e.g., Kiser, 327 Ga.App. at 19-20 (d) (evidence sufficient to support false imprisonment conviction where victim jumped through a window to escape mobile home when defendant was guarding the door); Wilson v. State, 304 Ga.App. 743, 747-48 (1) (d) (698 S.E.2d 6) (2010) (sufficient evidence supported false imprisonment conviction even though defendant blocked only the front door and left other avenues of escape). And the presence of this evidence distinguishes this case from others in which convictions have been reversed for false imprisonment. Compare Benbow v. State, 288 Ga. 192, 194 (702 S.E.2d 180) (2010) (reversing convictions for false imprisonment where there was no evidence that defendant, despite shooting a person at the front door of a house and taking money before fleeing, took any action to confine the victims to the house); Ward v. State, 304 Ga.App. 517, 523 (1) (c) (696 S.E.2d 471) (2010) (reversing false imprisonment conviction where there was no evidence ...


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