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State v. Chastain

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 2, 2019

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
MICHAEL SHANE CHASTAIN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted August 9, 2019

          Lane County Circuit Court 17CR16892; Charles M. Zennaché, Judge.

          Anne Fujita Munsey, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. Also on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Greg Rios, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. Also on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Lagesen, Presiding Judge, and Powers, Judge, and Kistler, Senior Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree theft after police found parts of a custom-built motorcycle on his property. Defendant objected to the state's request of $82, 000 in restitution to the victim for the stolen motorcycle. In defendant's view, the value of the motorcycle was limited to the amount that the victim's insurer paid to the victim, $26, 758. Because the motorcycle was a one-of-a-kind showpiece with no readily available market to establish its reasonable market value, the trial court measured the cost of the parts and the labor used to construct the motorcycle as the reasonable market value. In a supplemental judgment, the trial court ordered restitution in the amount of $82, 000. Defendant appeals. Held: The trial court did not err. Evidence in the record supported the trial court's fending that there is no market for the custom-built motorcycle. Because no comparable sales or market price existed, the trial court appropriately considered replacement costs to determine market value.

         [299 Or.App. 647] KISTLER, S. J.

         Defendant appeals from a supplemental judgment of restitution entered after he pled guilty to, among other things, first-degree theft. He argues that the trial court erred in awarding the victim $82, 000 in restitution for the stolen property. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         The victim owned a custom-built, three-wheeled motorcycle (the "Trike"), [1] which he designed with the help of other machinists over a period of years. Everything on the Trike "had to be custom built except the engine, and even the engine had to be modified." The victim testified that the parts used to construct the Trike cost "between 60 and 70, 000," dollars[2] and he submitted receipts in support of his testimony. He testified that he had paid two other persons to help him build the Trike, and he estimated that the total cost of the parts and labor were "close to 100, 000" dollars. The Trike was primarily a show piece, which the victim transported from one show to another in a trailer. The Trike had been driven only six or seven thousand miles since the victim first registered it in 2002.

         In 2017, the victim took the Trike to a shop to upgrade the front end. While it was in the shop, a person named Rentfrow stole it. Rentfrow sold the Trike for a minimal amount to defendant, who cut it up for parts.[3] When the police recovered what was left of the Trike, they were able to salvage some of the parts, which the insurance company valued at approximately $8, 000. The insurance company paid the victim $26, 758 for the Trike, after deducting $8, 000 for the recovered parts. In discussing the payment from the insurance company, the victim testified that he and the company had gone "back and forth, and they said, 'Well, it's difficult [to value the Trike] because it's not just a one model car you can get, and you have a price [for that car], [299 Or.App. 648] and there's a Blue Book [for it], and so'-so they h[agg]led with me. Really unsatisfacturally [sic], so to speak."[4] No other evidence was offered at the restitution hearing regarding the value of the Trike.

         In closing argument at the restitution hearing, defense counsel did not dispute that the Trike was a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Indeed, she acknowledged that "we can't really Blue Book this motorcycle because it's unique." Defense counsel observed, however, that the value of the vehicle and the cost of the parts were not necessarily equal. She noted that, if she put new tires on her truck, the value of her truck would not increase by the amount she paid for the tires.[5] She asserted that "insurance companies are * * * the experts in this matter," and she contended that the trial court should accept the amount that the insurance company had paid the victim for the Trike as its market value at the time and place that it was stolen.

         The state responded that "[t] here's no authority whatsoever that what the insurance company says that they'll pay is the value of the stolen property in this particular case." The state contended, and defendant did not dispute, that the motorcycle was a "show vehicle, primarily trailered to different locations. And it was in mint condition." The state argued that, because the Trike was not "something you can just readily buy," the cost of building the Trike was the best measure of its value at the time of the theft. The state noted that the victim had testified that he had put over $100, 000 into building the Trike and that that figure, reduced by the value of the recovered parts and presumably other factors, supported a restitution award of $82, 000.[6]

         [299 Or.App. 649] In considering whether to award restitution, the court initially found that defendant had engaged in criminal activities that had caused the victim economic damages. It then turned to the amount of economic damages that should be awarded. The court noted that, if it were dealing with a standard model vehicle, it would agree with defendant that "the insurance company's value should be considered in deciding what the fair market value of the * * * bike is." And it also agreed that, as a general proposition, the sum of the parts can exceed the value of a completed vehicle. The court reasoned, however, that "this is a different kind of animal. This is a very unique thing. This is a custom bike. It is not something that there was a ready market for. It's one-of-a-kind." The court accordingly "reject[ed] the Defense's argument that the economic damages should be limited to the market value of the completed vehicle," measured by the amount that the insurance company had paid the victim. The court found that the cost of the vehicle, measured by the cost of the parts and the labor used to construct it, provided a more accurate measure of its value at the time and place that it was stolen. It accordingly ordered defendant to pay the victim $82, 000 in restitution. The court made the obligation joint and several with Rentfrow's obligation, established in a separate criminal proceeding, to pay the same amount of restitution.

         The trial court's reasoning consisted of two steps. First, the trial court found that, because the Trike was a one-of-a-kind vehicle, there was no "market" for it and thus no Blue Book value or comparable sales that would establish its value at the time of the theft. Second, as between the two alternative methods of establishing the Trike's value that the parties proposed, the court rejected defendant's argument that it should adopt the amount that the insurance company had reimbursed the victim and relied instead on the cost that the victim testified that he had incurred in constructing the Trike ($100, 000), discounted by $18, 000. On appeal, defendant challenges each of those steps, and he adds a third issue that he ...

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