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In re E. B.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

October 23, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF E. B., a child (three cases).

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

          McFadden, Presiding Judge.

         In these related cases, E. B. appeals from the juvenile court's orders adjudicating him delinquent for actions he allegedly committed in 2014, when he was 13 years old. In Cases No. A17A0784 and A17A0785, we reverse E. B.'s adjudications of delinquency for burglary and shoplifting because the evidence was insufficient to support those adjudications; consequently, we do not address his other claims of error in those cases. In Case No. A17A0786, we affirm E. B.'s adjudication of delinquency for tampering with the operation of an electronic monitoring device because the evidence authorized the adjudication and any issues regarding the juvenile court's error in her disposition of that adjudication are moot.

         1. Facts and procedural history.

         "In reviewing a delinquency adjudication, we construe the record in the light most favorable to the juvenile court's ruling." In the Interest of J. M. A., 340 Ga.App. 155 (796 S.E.2d 773) (2017) (citation omitted).

         (a) Shoplifting (Case No. A17A0785).

         So construed, the record shows that on April 30, 2014, E. B. and some other children, including his younger brother, El. B., were "playing" in the sporting goods area of a Walmart store. E. B. picked up a packaged Airsoft BB gun and held onto it for several minutes. After he saw that another child in the group had concealed an unpackaged Airsoft gun in his clothing, E. B. said, "he has his and I want one, too." Shortly afterward, E. B. dropped an unpackaged Airsoft gun on the floor, breaking it.

         When the Airsoft gun broke the children scattered. E. B., his brother El. B., and another child remained in the store for a few more minutes; they walked around and returned to look at the Airsoft guns before leaving. Outside the store, a loss prevention officer who had witnessed E. B. drop and break the Airsoft gun stopped the three boys and, when the boys refused to talk with him, called 911. Police dispatched to the scene brought the three boys back into the store where they were interviewed. The third child "told the Wal[m]art people what had happened" and was released; he was not charged because he had "walked off" when the other child showed the concealed Airsoft gun and E. B. dropped the unpackaged Airsoft gun. E. B. and El. B. did not make any statements about what had happened and they were charged with shoplifting and taken into custody. At that time neither boy possessed any Walmart merchandise.

         The state filed a delinquency petition against E. B., alleging that he was delinquent for taking the Airsoft gun with the intent to appropriate the property to his own use without paying Walmart for it.

         (b) Burglary (Case No. A17A0784).

         On June 3, 2014, E. B.'s next-door neighbors returned from several days out of town to find the door to their house broken, a window open, and several items taken, including a wallet, clothing, and food. Information from other people in the neighborhood led an investigating police officer to speak with E. B.'s mother, who allowed the officer to search their house. The officer found food belonging to the victims in the washing machine and the wallet under the mattress in a bedroom. (The evidence does not indicate to whom that bedroom belonged.) The officer showed the wallet to E. B. and his family. He asked them how the wallet got under the mattress, where the rest of the victims' stolen items were, and whether they "had anything to do with it." In response, E. B.'s 12-year-old brother, Et. B., showed the officer a suitcase belonging to E. B.'s family and located under the mother's bed that contained more of the victims' belongings.

         Two police officers then sat in the living room with E. B. and his family, and one of the officers and E. B.'s mother questioned E. B. and his brothers. That officer testified that Et. B. said that all three boys had been in the neighbors' house and that "they went in after they went to sleep, the parents went to bed. . . . [T]hey put the younger child through a window, [El. B.], I believe, and he opened the door and they went in and took the goods[.]"

         The state filed a delinquency petition against E. B., alleging that he was delinquent for unlawfully entering the neighbors' house with the intent to commit a theft.

         (c) Tampering with the operation of an electronic monitoring device (Case No. A17A0786).

         E. B. was released into his father's custody and ordered to wear a leg monitor pending the hearing on the burglary petition. On the night of June 25, 2014, without notifying the Department of Juvenile Justice, E. B.'s mother left town with him and his siblings. His father found E. B.'s leg monitor in the boy's bedroom. It had a missing piece. E. B.'s father informed the Department of Juvenile Justice that the boy ...


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