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McAllister v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

October 19, 2017

MCALLISTER
v.
THE STATE.

          MCFADDEN, P. J., BRANCH and BETHEL, JJ.

          MCFADDEN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A jury found Monty McAllister guilty of aggravated stalking and criminal trespass. The trial court imposed a ten-year sentence for the aggravated stalking and a concurrent twelve-month sentence for the trespass. McAllister moved for a new trial, which the trial court denied. McAllister appeals, arguing that there was insufficient evidence supporting the aggravated stalking conviction, that the trial court committed plain error in re-charging the jury on aggravated stalking, and that his trial counsel was ineffective. However, there was enough evidence from which the jury was authorized to find McAllister guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of aggravated stalking, the trial court did not commit plain error in re-charging the jury on the statutory definition of aggravated stalking, and McAllister has failed to show that his trial counsel's performance was both deficient and prejudicial. Accordingly, we affirm.

         1. Sufficiency of the evidence.

         McAllister challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his aggravated stalking conviction. The challenge is without merit.

The applicable standard of review directs that when reviewing a defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, and the defendant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence. We do not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility, but only determine if the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Thompson v. State, 341 Ga.App. 883, 884 (1) (802 S.E.2d 713) (2017) (citation and punctuation omitted).

         So viewed, the evidence shows that on April 16, 2011, the victim reported to police that McAllister, her former boyfriend, was harassing her. An officer responded to the call and while he was with the victim at her apartment, McAllister called the victim on her cell phone. The officer asked the victim for her phone, he told McAllister that he had witnessed the victim telling him to leave her alone, and he told McAllister not to come to the victim's apartment. Early the next morning, the officer received a call that McAllister was at the victim's apartment complex and was preventing her from leaving in her car. The officer went to the complex and saw McAllister standing on the driver's side of the victim's car beating on the roof of the car. The officer arrested McAllister for criminal trespass. The following day, April 18, 2011, McAllister was released from jail on bond, with the bond order including a special condition that McAllister have no contact with the victim. The no-contact condition of the bond order provided:

That as a condition of permitting the Defendant to post said bond, the Defendant shall not . . . have any further contact, directly or indirectly, by person, telephone, computer, through a third party or any other means of communication with the victim. . . . That includes but is not limited to, at the victim's residence, workplace, school, and place of childcare or other location. Violations connected with contacting or following the victim may subject the Defendant to a separate prosecution for Aggravated Stalking. (Emphasis in original.)

         Several months later, on January 16, 2012, McAllister contacted the victim twice: he sent her a text message and he also talked to her on the phone, insisting that "he really needed to see her." The next morning, on January 17, McAllister drove to the victim's apartment complex; entered her apartment, setting off the security alarm; ripped the alarm off the wall and knocked a picture off the wall; went into the victim's bedroom; and kissed the victim. A police officer responded to the alarm call at the apartment, where he found the victim appearing scared and in shock at the door. The victim whispered to the officer that there was a man in her bedroom, that he was her ex-boyfriend, and that she had not invited him to come to her apartment. When the officer entered the apartment, he found the broken security alarm ripped from the wall, the picture knocked to the floor, and McAllister lying in the victim's bed. Inside McAllister's car, which was parked outside the victim's apartment, officers later found, among other things, plastic restraints, duct tape, and a box cutter.

         In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his aggravated stalking conviction, McAllister relies on State v. Burke, 287 Ga. 377 (695 S.E.2d 649) (2010), which held that "a single violation of a protective order, by itself, does not amount to aggravated stalking." Id. at 378 (footnote omitted; emphasis supplied). In Burke, the Georgia Supreme Court further held that evidence of prior difficulties between the defendant and the victim could not be used to establish the aggravated stalking element of a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior because the jury had been instructed that such prior difficulties could be considered only for the limited purposes of showing the state of feeling between the defendant and the victim and the bent of mind and course of conduct of the accused, and that such evidence could not be considered for any other purpose. Id. at 377-378.

         McAllister argues that because the jury in the instant case was given a similar limiting instruction regarding the purpose of prior difficulties evidence, the jury was not authorized to consider his prior incident with the victim in April 2011 as evidence of a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. And without such evidence of the April 2011 incident, he reasons, there was only evidence of a single violation of the no-contact bond provision - when he made contact with the victim at her apartment on January 17, 2012 - which by itself was insufficient to support his aggravated stalking conviction.

         However, contrary to McAllister's claim, the instant case is materially different from Burke, in which the "entire case hinged on the theory that a single violation of a protective order, in and of itself, was sufficient to establish the crime of aggravated stalking." Id. at 378. In this case, there was evidence of more than a single violation of the no-contact bond order which was sufficient to establish the crime of aggravated stalking. Even assuming, without deciding, that the jury was not authorized to consider evidence of the April 2011 incident as part of a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, there was other evidence from which the jury could have found such a pattern of behavior. As recounted above, the day before McAllister entered the victim's apartment, he violated the no-contact order twice by calling the victim and by sending her a text message. The jury was authorized to conclude that those acts of improper contact, along with the facts that when McAllister entered the victim's apartment he ripped the alarm off the wall, knocked a painting to the floor, and kissed the victim, constituted a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior.

         Although a single violation of a protective order, by itself, does not constitute aggravated stalking, see Burke, supra at 378, our Supreme Court has further explained that "of course one act of violating a protective order, when done as part of a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, can constitute the crime of aggravated stalking." State v. Cusack, 296 Ga. 534, 537-538 (769 S.E.2d 370) (2015) (citations omitted; emphasis supplied). See also Daker v. Williams, 279 Ga. 782, 785 (621 S.E.2d 449) (2005) (two related instances of stalking behavior occurring within the space of a single week evinced a pattern of prohibited behavior criminalized by the stalking statutes). Accordingly, because there was evidence from which the jury was authorized to find that McAllister's violation of the no-contact order ...


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