Justin M. Alexander v. State of Indiana ( 2014 )


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  • Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D),
    this Memorandum Decision shall not be
    regarded as precedent or cited before
    any court except for the purpose of                                    May 28 2014, 9:43 am
    establishing the defense of res judicata,
    collateral estoppel, or the law of the
    case.
    
    ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT:                         ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
    
    RANDY M. FISHER                                 GREGORY F. ZOELLER
    Deputy Public Defender                          Attorney General of Indiana
    Fort Wayne, Indiana
                                                    J.T. WHITEHEAD
                                                    Deputy Attorney General
                                                    Indianapolis, Indiana
    
    
                                  IN THE
                        COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
    
    JUSTIN M. ALEXANDER,                            )
                                                    )
           Appellant-Defendant,                     )
                                                    )
                  vs.                               )      Nos. 02A03-1310-CR-403
                                                    )           02A03-1310-CR-404
    STATE OF INDIANA,                               )           02A03-1310-CR-405
                                                    )
           Appellee-Plaintiff.                      )
    
    
                         APPEAL FROM THE ALLEN SUPERIOR COURT
                              The Honorable Frances C. Gull, Judge
                                 Cause Nos. 02D06-1301-FB-7
                                     02D04-1302-FB-18
                                      02D04-1301-FB-4
    
    
                                           May 28, 2014
    
                   MEMORANDUM DECISION - NOT FOR PUBLICATION
    
    GARRARD, Senior Judge
           Justin M. Alexander seeks review of his convictions and sentences in these three
    
    separate but related criminal appeals. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in each case
    
    but remand for clarification of the sentencing orders.
    
           The facts and procedural history of each case are as follows:
    
                                      A. Cause No. CR-404
    
           On December 31, 2012, Barbara Nagy and her family left their house to attend a
    
    New Year’s Eve party. They locked all of the house’s doors and ensured that the
    
    windows were closed but left at least one window unlocked. When they returned home at
    
    6:00 p.m. the next day, the front door was unlocked. A screen had been removed from
    
    the kitchen window and was on the ground outside. Someone had stolen their televisions,
    
    computers, game consoles, and a handgun. An officer was dispatched to the scene, and
    
    he found a palm print on a coffee table. A fingerprint examiner subsequently matched
    
    the palm print to Alexander. In addition, Alexander was later arrested after a vehicle
    
    chase as discussed below, and he had Nagy’s gun at the time of the arrest. The Nagys did
    
    not know Alexander and had not given him or anyone else permission to enter their home
    
    in their absence.
    
           The State charged Alexander with Class B felony burglary. Later, the State
    
    amended the charging information to add an habitual offender enhancement.           The
    
    burglary charge was tried to a jury, and the jury found Alexander guilty. The habitual
    
    offender enhancement was tried to the bench, and the judge determined that Alexander
    
    was an habitual offender.
    
    
    
                                                 2
                                            B. Cause No. CR-403
    
            At five in the morning on January 7, 2013, fifty-nine-year-old Wanda Boehme
    
    stopped at a convenience store on her way to work. She noticed that a man, later
    
    identified as Alexander, watched her check out at the cashier’s stand and transact
    
    business at the store’s lottery machine before he walked outside. Boehme returned to her
    
    car, and Alexander followed her to her employer’s parking lot. When she parked, she
    
    saw Alexander park his car in a nearby alley.
    
            Boehme waited for a while before getting out of her car because the situation
    
    “didn’t feel good.” CR-403 Trial Tr. p. 34.1 When she did, Alexander approached her
    
    with a handgun. Boehme swung her purse at him, but he backed her up against her car
    
    and demanded money. She gave him her cash. When Alexander demanded more,
    
    Boehme pressed the alarm button on her key fob, and the car alarm activated. Alexander
    
    told her to turn it off. Boehme refused, saying “shoot me, go ahead and shoot me they
    
    know who you are.” Id. at 37. Alexander left and was apprehended several days later
    
    during a vehicle chase as discussed below. After his arrest, an officer transported him to
    
    the hospital for treatment. Alexander complained of being pepper sprayed during the
    
    arrest, saying “I know I been robbing and stuff but there’s no cause for this.” Id. at 76.
    
            The State charged Alexander with Class B felony robbery.                      Later, the State
    
    amended the charging information to add an habitual offender enhancement.                            The
    
    robbery charge was tried to a jury, and the jury found Alexander guilty. The habitual
    1
      We refer to the transcripts and appellant’s appendices from the three appeals according to their cause
    numbers. In addition, the transcript volumes in each case are not consecutively paginated, in violation of
    Indiana Appellate Rule 28(A)(2). We thus cite to the individual volumes as the trial transcript or the
    sentencing transcript.
                                                        3
    offender enhancement was tried to the bench, and the judge determined that Alexander
    
    was an habitual offender.
    
                                      C. Cause No. CR-405
    
          On January 11, 2013, Officer Stephanie Souther was on patrol when she saw a
    
    Toyota Camry that had been reported as stolen and as being involved in an armed
    
    robbery.    She and other officers attempted to stop the Camry, but its driver, later
    
    identified as Alexander, refused to stop. Alexander lost control of the car during the
    
    subsequent chase and crashed into a house’s front porch.
    
          As Souther and other officers approached the car, Alexander crouched down and
    
    disappeared from view for a few seconds. Souther believed he was looking for a weapon.
    
    Next, he tried to get out of the car, but damage from the crash prevented it. Alexander
    
    then tried to put the car into reverse and back up, even though Souther was standing right
    
    behind the car. The car was stuck, and officers took Alexander into custody. They
    
    searched the Camry and found Nagy’s gun between the front passenger seat and the door.
    
          The State charged Alexander with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious
    
    violent felon, a Class B felony; receiving stolen auto parts, a Class C felony; and two
    
    counts of resisting law enforcement, one as a Class D felony (fleeing in a vehicle) and
    
    one as a Class A misdemeanor (refusing to cooperate at the crash site). Later, the State
    
    amended the charging information to add an habitual offender enhancement. Alexander
    
    pleaded guilty to all charges except the habitual offender enhancement.               The
    
    enhancement was tried to the bench, and the court determined that he was an habitual
    
    offender.
    
                                                4
                                           D. Sentencing
    
           The court held one sentencing hearing for all three cases. In CR-404, the court
    
    sentenced Alexander to twenty years, enhanced by thirty years due to the habitual
    
    offender charge, for a total of fifty years. In CR-403, the court sentenced Alexander to
    
    twenty years, enhanced by thirty years due to the habitual offender charge, for a total of
    
    fifty years. In CR-405, the court sentenced Alexander to twenty years for the firearm
    
    offense, plus eight years for receiving stolen auto parts, plus three years for one of the
    
    resisting law enforcement convictions and one additional year for the other resisting law
    
    enforcement conviction, all to be served consecutively for a total of thirty-two years. In
    
    addition, the court attached a thirty-year enhancement to the handgun conviction due to
    
    the habitual offender charge, for a total sentence of sixty-two years.
    
           The court further directed that the sentences in all three cases would be served
    
    consecutively, except that of the three habitual offender enhancements, Alexander would
    
    serve only the thirty-year enhancement in CR-405. CR-405 Sentencing Tr. pp. 39-40.
    
    Adding the twenty-year sentence in CR-404 to the twenty-year sentence in CR-403 and
    
    the sixty-two-year sentence in CR-405 results in an aggregate 102-year sentence.
    
                                              ISSUES
    
           Alexander raises the following issues:
    
           I.     Whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his burglary conviction in CR-
                  404.
    
           II.    Whether the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to amend
                  the charging informations to add habitual offender enhancements.
    
           III.   Whether the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him.
    
                                                 5
          IV.      Whether his sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses
                   and his character.
    
                                 DISCUSSION AND DECISION
    
                  I. SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE – BURGLARY (CR-404)
    
          When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence underlying a
    
    conviction, we neither reweigh the evidence nor assess the credibility of witnesses.
    
    Bailey v. State, 
    979 N.E.2d 133
    , 135 (Ind. 2012). The evidence and all reasonable
    
    inferences drawn from it are viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict. Id. We
    
    affirm if there is substantial evidence of probative value supporting each element of the
    
    crime from which a reasonable trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond
    
    a reasonable doubt. Id.
    
          To convict Alexander of burglary as a Class B felony, the State was required to
    
    prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he (1) knowingly or intentionally (2) broke and
    
    entered (3) a dwelling (4) with the intent to commit a felony within. Ind. Code § 35-43-
    
    2-1 (1999).
    
          Alexander first argues that the State failed to prove that a breaking and entry
    
    occurred because a detective conceded at trial that he had no definitive explanation for
    
    how the burglar entered the home. The occurrence of a breaking may be proven entirely
    
    by circumstantial evidence and may include opening an unlocked door. Davis v. State,
    
    
    743 N.E.2d 751
    , 753 (Ind. 2001). Here, the evidence established that the Nagys ensured
    
    that all their windows were closed and all doors were locked before leaving. When they
    
    returned, the front door was unlocked. In addition, a screen had been removed from the
    
                                                 6
    kitchen window and was on the ground outside. They had not given anyone permission
    
    to enter their home while they were gone. The jury could reasonably conclude that a
    
    person entered the house by opening a closed but unlocked window, thereby establishing
    
    the element of breaking.
    
          Next, Alexander claims the State failed to prove that he committed the burglary.
    
    The evidence most favorable to the verdict established that the Nagys did not know
    
    Alexander and had never given him permission to be inside of their home. After the
    
    burglary, his palm print was found inside the home on a glass table and he was later
    
    arrested with the Nagys’ gun in his possession. This circumstantial evidence is sufficient
    
    to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Alexander committed the burglary. See
    
    Mediate v. State, 
    498 N.E.2d 391
    , 395 (Ind. 1986) (affirming conviction for burglary
    
    where defendant’s fingerprint was found in a home and defendant had no legitimate right
    
    of access to the home).
    
                     II. AMENDMENT OF CHARGING INFORMATION
    
          Alexander argues that the trial court erred in allowing the State to amend the
    
    charging information in each of the three cases to add an habitual offender enhancement.
    
    The governing statute provides,
    
          An amendment of an indictment or information to include a habitual
          offender charge . . . must be made not later than ten (10) days after the
          omnibus date. However, upon a showing of good cause, the court may
          permit the filing of a habitual offender charge at any time before the
          commencement of the trial.
    
    
    
    
                                                7
    Ind. Code § 35-34-1-5(e) (2007).2 We review the trial court’s decision to amend a
    
    charging information for an abuse of discretion. See Brown v. State, 
    912 N.E.2d 881
    , 892
    
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2009) (no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s grant of leave to amend an
    
    information), trans. denied.
    
            Before addressing the merits of Alexander’s claim, the State contends Alexander
    
    waived it by failing to object to the amendment in any of the three cases. A defendant
    
    must object to a pre-trial substantive amendment to the charging information, and if the
    
    objection is overruled the defendant must request a continuance. See Wilson v State, 
    931 N.E.2d 914
    , 918 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied. Failure to object or to request a
    
    continuance results in waiver. Id.
    
            In each of the three cases, the State did not seek to amend the charging
    
    information to add the habitual offender count until more than ten days after the omnibus
    
    date. Alexander did not file written objections to any of the proposed amendments. On
    
    April 25, 2013, the court held a combined hearing in all three cases on pending motions,
    
    including the State’s motions to amend the charging informations. We have not been
    
    provided with a transcript of that hearing. Instead, we have the court’s minute entries in
    
    the three cases. The entries do not indicate that Alexander objected to the State’s
    
    proposed habitual offender charges. CR-403 Appellant’s App. p. 29; CR-404 Appellant’s
    
    
    2
      This statute was amended in 2013, effective on July 1, 2013. Regarding a prior amendment to Indiana
    Code section 35-34-1-5, a panel of this Court concluded that it could be applied retroactively to pending
    criminal cases without violating the ex post facto clause. See Ramon v. State, 
    888 N.E.2d 244
    , 251-52
    (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). Indiana’s appellate courts have not yet concluded whether the 2013 amendment to
    Indiana Code section 35-34-1-5 can be retroactively applied, and the parties do not address this issue.
    Our analysis thus considers the version of the statute that was in effect when Alexander committed his
    crimes.
                                                       8
    App. p. 37; CR-405 Appellant’s App. p. 46. Alexander merely requested that the trials be
    
    continued.
    
           The court next held a hearing in all three cases on May 23, 2013. Again, we do
    
    not have a transcript of the hearing and must rely upon the court’s docket entries. During
    
    the hearing, Alexander waived an initial hearing on the habitual offender enhancements
    
    in all three cases and did not object.
    
           Finally, during the three bench trials on the habitual offender enhancements,
    
    Alexander argued that he was renewing his prior claim that the amendment to add those
    
    charges was untimely. However, the record fails to indicate that he had previously made
    
    an objection. We conclude that Alexander waived his right to challenge the timeliness of
    
    the habitual offender enhancements.
    
           In any event, despite Alexander’s waiver we conclude that the amendment of the
    
    charging informations, although substantive, did not deprive him of a reasonable
    
    opportunity to defend himself against the habitual offender allegations. The purpose of
    
    Indiana Code section 35-34-1-5(e) is to allow a defendant sufficient time to prepare a
    
    defense to the habitual offender charge. Haymaker v. State, 
    667 N.E.2d 1113
    , 1114 (Ind.
    
    1996). In each of the three cases, Alexander received a continuance of the trial date when
    
    the State sought to amend the charging informations. In addition, he was not tried on any
    
    of the habitual offender allegations until August 2013—almost four months after the
    
    State requested leave to amend the informations. He thus had ample time to prepare his
    
    defense, and the court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the amendments to the
    
    charging informations.
    
                                                9
                        III. SENTENCING – ABUSE OF DISCRETION
    
          Subject to the review and revise authority discussed below, sentencing decisions
    
    rest within the sound discretion of the trial court and are reviewed on appeal only for an
    
    abuse of discretion. Kimbrough v. State, 
    979 N.E.2d 625
    , 628 (Ind. 2012). A court may
    
    abuse its discretion by:   (1) failing to enter a sentencing statement, (2) entering a
    
    sentencing statement that explains reasons for imposing the sentence but the record does
    
    not support the reasons, (3) omitting from the sentencing statement reasons that are
    
    clearly supported by the record and advanced for consideration, or (4) giving reasons in
    
    the sentencing statement that are improper as a matter of law. Id.
    
          During the sentencing hearing, the trial court identified the following mitigating
    
    circumstances for all three cases: (1) Alexander pleaded guilty in CR-405 (except as to
    
    the habitual offender charge), (2) Alexander’s history of substance abuse, and (3)
    
    Alexander’s expression of remorse. The court declined to find Alexander’s employment
    
    history as a mitigating factor, stating, “You’re a strapping young man capable of
    
    employment and you should be employed.” CR-405 Sentencing Tr. p. 35.
    
          Alexander argues that the court should have given greater weight to the three
    
    mitigating factors. A sentencing court is not obligated to give proffered mitigating
    
    factors the same weight the defendant does. Wilkes v. State, 
    917 N.E.2d 675
    , 690 (Ind.
    
    2009). Alexander further argues that the court should have found his employment history
    
    to be a mitigating factor. The court need not accept a defendant’s argument as to what
    
    constitutes a mitigating circumstance. Id. The record shows that the court considered the
    
    
    
                                                10
    proposed mitigating factor, rejected it, and provided a reasonable explanation for the
    
    rejection. We find no abuse of discretion.
    
                         IV. SENTENCING - INAPPROPRIATENESS
    
           Article 7, section 4 of the Indiana Constitution grants Indiana’s appellate courts
    
    the power to review and revise sentences. Coleman v. State, 
    946 N.E.2d 1160
    , 1170 (Ind.
    
    2011). We may revise an otherwise lawful sentence “if, after due consideration of the
    
    trial court’s decision, the Court finds that the sentence is inappropriate in light of the
    
    nature of the offense and the character of the offender.” Ind. Appellate Rule 7(B). We
    
    may consider the culpability of the defendant, the severity of the crime, the damage done
    
    to others, and myriad other factors that come to light in a given case. Teague v. State,
    
    
    978 N.E.2d 1183
    , 1189 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).         The defendant bears the burden of
    
    persuading the appellate court that his or her sentence meets the inappropriateness
    
    standard. Coleman, 946 N.E.2d at 1170.
    
           We review the sentences Alexander received and then consider the nature of the
    
    offenses and the character of the offender.
    
                                            A. CR-404
    
           A person who commits a Class B felony may receive a minimum sentence of six
    
    years or up to a maximum sentence of twenty years, with the advisory sentence being ten
    
    years. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-5 (2005). Alexander received the maximum sentence of
    
    twenty years for his B felony burglary conviction, plus a habitual offender enhancement
    
    of thirty years.   The court noted that he would not serve the habitual offender
    
    enhancement because only the enhancement in CR-405 would be given effect.
    
                                                  11
                                           B. CR-403
    
          Alexander received the maximum sentence of twenty years for his B felony
    
    robbery conviction, plus a habitual offender enhancement of thirty years. However, the
    
    court noted that he would not serve the habitual offender enhancement because only the
    
    enhancement in CR-405 would be given effect.
    
                                           C. CR-405
    
          Alexander received the maximum sentence of twenty years for B felony unlawful
    
    possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. In addition, at the time Alexander
    
    committed the offense of Class C felony receiving stolen auto parts, the minimum
    
    sentence was two years, the maximum sentence was eight years, and the advisory
    
    sentence was four years.     Ind. Code § 35-50-2-6 (2005).       The court imposed the
    
    maximum sentence of eight years.
    
          Next, the sentence for a Class D felony at the time Alexander committed his
    
    offenses ranged from a minimum of six months to a maximum of three years, with an
    
    advisory sentence of one and a half years. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7 (2012). Alexander
    
    received the maximum sentence of three years for D felony resisting law enforcement.
    
          Alexander received the maximum sentence of one year for his conviction of Class
    
    A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement. Ind. Code § 35-50-3-2 (1977). The court
    
    ordered all of the sentences to be served consecutively, plus a thirty-year habitual
    
    offender enhancement, for a total sentence of sixty-two years.
    
    
    
    
                                                12
           In addition, the court ordered all convictions served consecutively except that
    
    Alexander would serve only the habitual offender enhancement in CR-405, for an
    
    aggregate sentence of 102 years, which was the maximum allowed by statute.
    
           Turning to the nature of the offenses, Alexander’s burglary of the Nagys’
    
    residence in CR-404 was unremarkable except that the volume of items stolen indicates
    
    that it took time for Alexander to complete the crime. Thus, he had ample opportunity to
    
    reconsider and abandon his criminal course of conduct but chose to continue.
    
           In CR-403, Alexander ambushed and robbed at gunpoint a fifty-nine-year-old
    
    woman under cover of darkness. Alexander followed Boehme from a gas station to her
    
    place of work and approached her after waiting for her to get out of her car, again
    
    demonstrating that Alexander had ample time to abandon his course of action but
    
    persisted in his criminal conduct.
    
           Finally, in CR-405 Alexander endangered the lives of multiple officers and other
    
    motorists by fleeing from the police in a stolen car.      The chase ended only when
    
    Alexander crashed into a house, potentially endangering its occupants.         Even then,
    
    Alexander refused to comply with the law, attempting to get out of the vehicle to flee and
    
    then, when that failed, trying to back up his car even though he risked running over a
    
    police officer.
    
           Next, we consider the character of the offender. Alexander committed all of these
    
    offenses within a two-week period, a crime spree that says much about his character. In
    
    addition, he was on parole when he committed the current offenses. His criminal history
    
    is extensive.     He was thirty-four years old at sentencing and had four juvenile
    
                                               13
    adjudications, sixteen prior misdemeanor convictions, and seven prior felony convictions.
    
    Alexander’s prior convictions include receiving stolen property, battery, robbery, several
    
    counts of resisting law enforcement, and several counts of criminal trespass. Thus, he
    
    continues to commit the same offenses time and time again despite opportunities to
    
    reform. Furthermore, he has not managed to avoid criminal charges for any length of
    
    time. In addition, lesser sanctions have not changed Alexander’s behavior. He has
    
    violated probation and parole in multiple cases. These factors indicate that a downward
    
    reduction of his sentence is not merited.
    
           Alexander asserts that the maximum sentence is inappropriate because he is not
    
    the worst possible offender. When deciding whether a case is among the very worst
    
    offenses and a defendant among the very worst offenders, thus justifying the maximum
    
    sentence, we concentrate less on comparing the facts of the case to others and more on
    
    focusing on the nature, extent, and depravity of the offense for which the defendant is
    
    being sentenced, and what it reveals about the defendant’s character. Brown v. State, 
    760 N.E.2d 243
    , 247 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), trans. denied. Alexander’s lengthy and sustained
    
    history of violent criminal behavior, taken together with the crime spree at issue here,
    
    demonstrate an absolute unwillingness to lead a law-abiding life, regardless of who may
    
    be endangered by his misconduct. He has failed to persuade us that his sentence is
    
    inappropriate.
    
           Although we affirm Alexander’s sentence, the trial court’s sentencing orders
    
    require clarification.   During the sentencing hearing, the court clearly ordered the
    
    sentences in all three cases to be served consecutively except for the habitual offender
    
                                                14
    enhancements, of which Alexander would serve only the enhancement in CR-405. The
    
    court’s decision as to the enhancements follows our supreme court’s precedent. See
    
    Breaston v. State, 
    907 N.E.2d 992
    , 994 (Ind. 2009) (“Under Indiana law, a trial court
    
    cannot order consecutive habitual offender sentences.”).     However, the judgment of
    
    conviction in CR-405 does not indicate whether the sentence is to be served concurrently
    
    or consecutively with the sentences in CR-403 and CR-404. Similarly, the judgments of
    
    conviction in CR-403 and CR-404 refer to the sentence in CR-405 but do not mention
    
    each other and whether the sentences in CR-403 and CR-404 are to be served
    
    concurrently or consecutively. We remand to the trial court to clarify the sentencing
    
    orders to resolve these omissions.
    
                                         CONCLUSION
    
           For the reasons stated above, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand
    
    for further proceedings.
    
           Affirmed and remanded.
    
    BAKER, J., and BARNES, J., concur.
    
    
    
    
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