Quinton Chavers was convicted of malice murder, violation of
the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act,
possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony,
and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in
connection with the shooting death of Jasperin
Armstrong. On appeal, Chavers contends that the
evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for
violation of the Street Gang Act, that the trial court erred
by allowing certain testimony over a hearsay objection, and
that Chavers's trial counsel rendered ineffective
assistance by failing to object to certain other testimony as
hearsay. We disagree and affirm.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict,
the evidence presented at trial showed the following.
Jasperin Armstrong was found dead by a passerby on the side
of a road around 10:45 a.m. on September 12, 2014.
Blood-spatter evidence and the condition of Armstrong's
body led a GBI crime-scene specialist to determine that the
body had been on the road for a significant period of time,
and a GBI medical examiner concluded that Armstrong had been
shot at least several hours before discovery of his body.
When police later searched Armstrong's bedroom, they
recovered printed gang rules, and his girlfriend verified
that Armstrong was a member of the "Rollin'
20s" gang, a division of the Bloods. Investigators also
recovered messages from the gang's Facebook group that
included Armstrong, Chavers, co-indictee Rontavious Towns,
and other members of the Rollin' 20s gang including
Hassan Taylor. Towns was a leader of the gang in Cordele,
Georgia, and Chavers was his superior: the head of the
Rollin' 20s in Georgia. Armstrong's first cousin,
Jacquese Hicks, was in a different gang and, when members of
the two gangs played a basketball game earlier that summer, a
fight between the gangs broke out after Hicks elbowed Taylor,
cutting his eye. But instead of fighting with his gang
against his rival gang-which included his cousin-Armstrong
tried to break up the fight.
the fight, messages posted to a Rollin' 20s Facebook
group criticized Armstrong's failure to fight and warned
about Chavers imposing consequences. In addition, Taylor, who
had been injured in the basketball game, later had a
conversation with Towns, who called Chavers on speaker phone.
Chavers told Taylor that they had to stick together, said how
Armstrong "went out bad," and remarked that
"somebody's got to die." Another time, Chavers
told Towns to enforce the gang rules and "to start
taking [violators] to a dark spot and just kill them and
have somebody there with [him] that [he] trust[ed]."
Afterwards, Towns remarked that Chavers was
Rollin' 20s gang member, co-indictee Shaquille
Jackson-who had participated in the basketball-related fight
despite having a broken hand- lived with Shameria Little in
her apartment and occasionally met there with other gang
members. At one meeting four days before Armstrong was
murdered, Jackson, Towns, Kelvy Henton, and another man were
present. Little overheard them comment that Armstrong would
not fight his cousin and heard them say that somebody was
"on the plate" and "going to get ate." At
trial, a gang expert testified that somebody who is "on
the plate" and "going to get ate" is a
targeted person who is going to be beaten or killed. On
another occasion, Armstrong told Little that Towns was mad at
September 10 to 12, 2014, Towns and Chavers made 45 phone
calls to each other. On September 11, 2014, Jackson told
another gang member that Armstrong "doesn't know how
real the s*** is about to get." That evening, Chavers
and co-indictee Andreika Harper drove from Bainbridge to
Cordele in Harper's car and stopped in the parking lot
near Little's apartment. Jackson and Towns talked to
Chavers in the parking lot about Armstrong's failure to
participate in the fight. Between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.,
Armstrong-who had previously told his girlfriend that he was
supposed to meet Chavers-got a ride from his mother, who
dropped him off near the parking lot by Little's
apartment. After Armstrong walked up to the group, Chavers
said that everyone had been waiting for Armstrong and that
Armstrong was going to take a ride with Chavers and Harper in
Harper's car. After Chavers, Harper, and Armstrong left,
Jackson told Henton that Chavers was "talking crazy,
he's talking about killing [Armstrong]."
driving, Chavers asked Armstrong why he had not participated
in the fight with his fellow gang members and why he had
missed gang meetings. After several minutes, Chavers stopped
in the road and asked Armstrong to get out of the car to help
him find something. After the two exited the car, Harper saw
Armstrong standing on the side of the road and Chavers
appearing to look for something. She then heard a loud noise
and saw a flash. Chavers got back into the car by himself and
asked Harper if she was okay. He told her that she could not
tell anyone about what happened, that Armstrong said
"don't kill me, man," and that Chavers tried to
fire a second time but the gun jammed. As Chavers and Harper
drove back to Bainbridge, Chavers called Towns and told him
the "job had been done." Chavers threw the gun into
the river in Bainbridge, and he and Harper spent the night in
testified at trial. He admitted that he was the highest
ranking member of the Rollin' 20s gang in Georgia; that
he and Harper picked up Armstrong; and that he talked to
Armstrong about the gang and the difficulties Armstrong was
having with other members. However, Chavers also testified
that on the night of September 11, 2014, he dropped Armstrong
off on the side of a road by a cemetery. Chavers insisted
that he never participated in the alleged phone conversation
with Taylor; never told Taylor that somebody "had to
die"; and never told Towns "to take [violators] to
a dark place and take care of business."
Chavers contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove
his guilt of conspiracy to commit murder and, therefore, was
also insufficient to support his conviction for violation of
the Street Gang Act because that violation was predicated on
the conspiracy offense.
initial matter, Chavers's guilty verdict for conspiracy
was merged into his malice murder conviction, see OCGA §
16-4-8.1, so he "was not sentenced for that crime, and
no judgment of conviction as to that crime was entered
against him." Faust v. State, 302 Ga. 211, 213
n.3 (805 S.E.2d 826) (2017). Chavers's claim regarding
the sufficiency of the evidence of conspiracy to commit
murder is therefore moot. See id.; see also Anderson v.
State, 299 Ga. 193, 196 n.4 (787 S.E.2d 202) (2016).
however, also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support his conviction for violation of the Street Gang Act
predicated on the conspiracy offense, and we review the
sufficiency of the evidence to support that conviction
because it does not merge. To that end, Chavers was charged
in the indictment with violating the Street Gang Act by
participating in criminal street gang activity "through
the commission of the offense of Conspiracy to Commit the
Offense of Murder" while associated with the Rollin'
20s gang. To prove a violation of the Street Gang Act in this
way, the State was required to show that Chavers was, in
fact, associated with the Rollin' 20s, that the
Rollin' 20s was a "criminal street gang," that
Chavers committed a predicate act of "criminal street
gang activity"-namely, the conspiracy to commit
Armstrong's murder, and that the commission of the
predicate act was intended to further the interests of the
Rollin' 20s. See OCGA §§ 16-15-3 (1) (J),
16-15-4 (a); Jones v. State, 292 Ga. 656, 659 (740
S.E.2d 590) (2013). Only one of these requirements is the
subject of this enumeration; Chavers's sole contention is
that the State failed to prove that he conspired with his
co-indictees to murder Armstrong.
true that "a defendant cannot be convicted for merely
being associated with a gang that commits criminal acts; the
defendant must personally commit an enumerated offense
himself." Giddens v. State, 299 Ga. 109,
111-112 (786 S.E.2d 659) (2016) (citation omitted). See also
Rodriguez v. State, 284 Ga. 803, 810 (671 S.E.2d
497) (2009) ("To support a conviction, the accused must
be shown to have conducted or participated in criminal street
gang activity through the commission of 'an actual
criminal act. Mere association is insufficient.'"
(citation omitted)). And OCGA § 16-4-8 provides that
"[a] person commits the offense of conspiracy to commit
a crime when he together with one or more persons conspires
to commit any crime and any one or more of such persons does
any overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy."
Chavers argues that the State failed to prove his guilt of
conspiracy to commit Armstrong's murder because,
according to Taylor's testimony about his phone call with
Chavers and Towns, Chavers never said who "had to
die" and he therefore could have been referring to
someone in the rival gang (not Armstrong); because Taylor was
on felony probation, giving him an incentive to provide
testimony favorable to the State; because Chavers denied
participation in the alleged conversation with Towns and
Taylor; and because Little's testimony about the meeting
in her apartment four days before Armstrong's murder did
not implicate Chavers, who was not present, in a conspiracy
to murder Armstrong.
evaluating a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we
view all of the evidence presented at trial in the light most
favorable to the verdict and ask whether any rational trier
of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. See
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-319 (99 S.Ct.
2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). Our review leaves to the jury
the resolution of conflicts or inconsistencies in the
evidence, credibility of witnesses, and reasonable inferences
to be made from the facts. See id.; Menzies v.
State, 304 Ga. 156, 160 (816 S.E.2d 638) (2018).
"As long as there is some competent evidence, even
though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make
out the State's case, the jury's verdict will be
upheld." Williams v. State, 287 Ga. 199, 200
(695 S.E.2d 246) (2010) (citation omitted).
conspiracy to exist under OCGA § 16-4-8, there must be
an agreement to commit a crime, but that agreement need not
be express. "'The State may prove a conspiracy by
showing that two or more persons tacitly came to a mutual
understanding to pursue a criminal objective.'"
Shepard v. State, 300 Ga. 167, 170 (794 S.E.2d 121)
(2016) (citation omitted). See also Grissom v.
State, 296 Ga. 406, 409 (768 S.E.2d 494) (2015)
("'Conduct which discloses a common design . . . may
establish a conspiracy.'" (citation omitted));
Griffin v. State, 294 Ga. 325, 327 (751 S.E.2d 773)
(2013). "Where there is no evidence of an express
agreement, an inference that two or more people tacitly came
to a mutual understanding to commit a crime can be drawn from
'the nature of the ...