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State v. Connelly

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 19, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ANTHONY PATRICK CONNELLY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted April 22, 2019.

          Washington County Circuit Court 17CR32690 Andrew Erwin, Judge.

          Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Anna Belais, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the briefs for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Leigh A. Salmon, Assistant Attorney General, fled the briefs for respondent.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for the unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV). Defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to show that defendant knew that the vehicle was stolen. Held: A rational factfnder could have found that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew the vehicle was stolen, and, therefore, the trial court did not err when it denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal.

         Affirmed.

         [298 Or.App.218] TOOKEY, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for the unauthorized use of a vehicle (UUV), ORS 164.135, assigning error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal.[1] On appeal, defendant argues that "the state's evidence in this case was insufficient to support a reasonable inference that defendant had actual knowledge that the Subaru was stolen when he possessed it." We conclude that a rational factfinder could have found that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant knew this vehicle was stolen and, therefore, the trial court did not err when it denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. Accordingly, we affirm.[2]

         When reviewing the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal, we review the facts in the light most favorable to the state and draw all reasonable inferences in the state's favor to determine "whether any rational trier of fact, accepting reasonable inferences and making reasonable credibility choices, could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Lupoli, 348 Or. 346, 366, 234 P.3d 117 (2010). We present the facts consistently with that standard.

         [298 Or.App.219] The victim in this case was the owner of a 1997 Subaru Legacy. One weekend, the victim left her Subaru parked on the street in front of her friend's house in Portland on Friday night to attend an event in Seattle. The victim returned on Sunday to find that her Subaru was missing, and the victim reported her vehicle as stolen because she had not given anyone else permission to use her vehicle.

         Several weeks after the victim had reported her vehicle as stolen, Officer Powell responded to a call for assistance by some employees at Fred Meyer. The employees directed Powell's attention to defendant, his co-defendant (Jones), and a 1997 Subaru Legacy. When Powell approached the Subaru, Powell noticed that there were no license plates on the Subaru and that the Subaru only had a temporary trip permit. Based on Powell's training and experience as a police officer, Powell explained that the absence of license plates and the use of a temporary trip permit is a suspicious characteristic for a vehicle because there is no license plate that an officer can readily use to conduct a record check to find out if the vehicle is stolen. Instead, if there is no license plate, the officer uses the vehicle identification number (VIN) to conduct a record check, but that requires going into the vehicle, or looking through the windshield of the vehicle, to find the VIN. Powell located the VIN by looking through the window of the Subaru and relayed the VIN to dispatch. Dispatch advised Powell that the Subaru had been reported stolen.

         When Powell contacted defendant, Powell noticed that defendant was wearing a computer chip on a lanyard around his neck. Defendant was taken into custody and officers removed the lanyard with the computer chip from around defendant's neck and gave it to Officer Wall, who was collecting the evidence in this case.

         Wall, who had previously been employed as a detective on an auto theft task force in Texas, and received specific training on vehicle theft, knew that "[e]arly 90's to late 90's" Subarus are a target for car thieves because they can be started with a "jiggle key"[3] or by using an electronic [298 Or.App.220] ignition bypass system that allows car thieves to start the vehicle by inserting a computer chip to bypass the ignition and nipping a relay switch to engage the starter.[4] Wall noticed that the computer chip that defendant had on the lanyard around his neck "was the chip key for th[e] relay switch" on the ignition bypass system on the driver's side of the Subaru. The victim's Subaru did not have an electronic ignition bypass system before it was stolen. Wall knew from his training and experience that ignition bypass systems are not installed any more for any "legitimate security purpose," but are "typically used as a way to clean up a hotwire, so that you don't have a mess of wires hanging out from underneath the dash" to make the vehicle "look[] a little more legitimate." Based on the "wiring with the tape" on the ignition bypass system, the relay switch for the starter, and the lack of any legitimate key for the Subaru, Wall determined that this was the type of ignition bypass system that is "common with stolen vehicles" and ...


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