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Knowles v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

May 31, 2017


          DOYLE, C. J., ANDREWS and RAY, JJ.

          Doyle, Chief Judge.

         Barbara Knowles was convicted of making a false report of a crime[1] and three counts of making a false statement.[2] She appeals the denial of her motion for new trial, arguing that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; (2) the rule of lenity should have been applied to her convictions for making false statements; and (3) she received ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Knowles's convictions, but vacate her sentences for making a false statement and remand for resentencing.

          Knowles was tried along with co-defendants Kelly Marlow and Robert Trim, both of whom were convicted of two felony counts of making a false statement. All three defendants appealed. We affirmed Marlow's and Trim's convictions in Marlow v. State, [3] but vacated their sentences and remanded for resentencing. The relevant facts, as set forth in that opinion, follow:

Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, [4] the record shows that on June 13, 2013, at approximately 11:00 p.m., a Canton police officer responded to a 911 call made by Barbara Knowles outside the Painted Pig restaurant in Canton. When he arrived, the officer spoke with Knowles, Marlow, and Trim, and [Knowles] advised that "they had left a school board meeting that was very heated, and when they crossed the two-lane, one way street between the crosswalk and the actual entrance of the restaurant, Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Frank Petruzielo came speeding by in an aggressive manner, and he came very close to them, and they felt threatened."[5]
The officer took a report, but he advised the trio that he would not pursue an investigation or charges and that they could obtain a citizen warrant in magistrate court if they wished to further pursue the matter.
A police supervisor subsequently reviewed the incident report, and on June 14, 2013, he referred the matter to a detective for investigation. The detective contacted Knowles, Trim, and Marlow and asked them to provide written statements via email. [On June 23, 2013, Knowles emailed her written statement to the detective, and she went into the police station and signed it on July 2, 2013.[6] In the statement, Knowles advised that as she, Marlow, and Trim were crossing the street, "[they] turned and saw a white, BMW SUV accelerating and changing from the right lane to the left lane where they were crossing." According to her statement, Knowles was in front of Marlow and Trim, and Trim "had to push [Marlow] forward in order for them not to be hit by the driver of the SUV. The driver never slowed down. . . ." Knowles stated that [Petruzielo] was the driver of the BMW, and she called 911 and reported the incident because she "felt that [her] life had been in danger."]
. . .
On June 20, 2013, the detective obtained surveillance video from outside the Painted Pig at 10:40 p.m. on June 13, 2013.[7] According to the detective, the video shows Knowles "casually" walk across the street to the sidewalk without turning around and walk into the restaurant. Trim then reaches the sidewalk, followed by Marlow. The video does not show Trim pushing Marlow out of the way in the way [Knowles] described in [her] statement[]. It does depict Petruzielo driving past in his vehicle.[8] The detective described the surveillance video as "inconsistent" with the accusations made by . . . Knowles[, Marlow, and Trim].
On July 2, 2013, Knowles[, Marlow, and Trim] met with police at the scene, and they gave recorded oral statements and re-enacted their version of the events involving Petruzielo, narrating as they did so.[9] Their statements essentially repeated their written statements, and according to the detective, their statements and re-enactment remained inconsistent with the video surveillance.[10]

         As a result of the investigation, Knowles was charged with one count of making a false report of a crime (Count 1) and three counts of making a false statement (Counts 2-4). The trial court granted a directed verdict as to Count 2, [11] and Knowles was convicted of the remaining counts and sentenced to 10 years to serve 60 days in custody, with the remainder to be served on probation. The trial court denied her subsequent motion for new trial, and this appeal followed.

         1. Sufficiency of the evidence.

         Knowles argues that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions. We disagree.

On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and an appellant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. This Court determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the standard of Jackson v. Virginia, [12] and does not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility. Any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence are for the jury to resolve. As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, we must uphold the jury's verdict.[13]

          (a) Making a false report of a crime.

         OCGA § 16-10-26 provides: "A person who willfully and knowingly gives or causes a false report of a crime to be given to any law enforcement officer or agency of this state is guilty of a misdemeanor."

         Knowles argues that because she did not actually use the specific words "reckless conduct" or "aggravated assault" or otherwise specifically name the crime she alleged Petruzielo committed when she first contacted police, her statements do not constitute a false report of a crime. This argument is without merit. The indictment did not allege that Knowles used any specific language, and the statute does not require it as an element of the crime.

         Next, Knowles contends that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the report that she made to ...

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