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State v. Wayne Mitchell

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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT						Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2000 ME 72
Docket: 	Cum-99-148
on Briefs:  	April 14, 2000
Decided:	April 20, 2000




	[¶1]  Wayne T. Mitchell appeals from a judgment of conviction entered
after a jury verdict of guilty in the Superior Court (Cumberland County,
Warren, J.) for the Class D offense of false public alarm or report.  See 17-A
M.R.S.A. § 509 (1983).  Mitchell contends that the trial court erred in
denying his motion for acquittal.{1}  We affirm the judgment.
	[¶2]  The facts viewed in the light most favorable to the State are the
following:  On June 14, 1998, Officer Coons of the Portland Police
Department visited Mitchell in response to Mitchell's call to the police
department.  Mitchell told Coons that Greg Neptune stole a gun from
Mitchell.  Mitchell said that Neptune was a friend and a convicted felon. 
Mitchell also gave Coons a written statement which said that about a month
ago Neptune visited Mitchell's residence; Mitchell's .25 caliber pistol was
on the coffee table; when Neptune left the gun was gone; and Neptune later
admitted taking it. 
	[¶3]  As a result of Mitchell's report of the stolen gun, Neptune was
arrested and jailed.  Detective Holmes of the Portland Police Department
took a statement from Mitchell on June 17 in which Mitchell reiterated
what he had said to Coons.  In addition, Mitchell told Holmes that earlier
that day he found the gun in his newspaper delivery receptacle outside his
front door.
	[¶4]  Mitchell wrote a letter to the Cumberland County District
Attorney's Office dated July 15, 1998, stating that Neptune did not take the
gun but that instead Neptune had stolen $250 in cash from Mitchell. 
Mitchell wrote that he was angry at Neptune for taking the money, and "I
formulated a story to put him behind bars."  The letter apologized for
wasting the time of the police.  After the District Attorney's office received
this letter, Holmes again interviewed Mitchell who repeated the version of
events in the July 15 letter, and he added that Neptune's brother said he
would make full restitution of the stolen money.  Later Mitchell called
Holmes and told her that he had received the money.
	[¶5]  Neptune's ex-wife, sometime in the summer of 1998, saw
Mitchell loan a gun to Neptune.  After Neptune was arrested, the ex-wife
arranged to have the gun returned to Mitchell. 
	[¶6]  In reviewing the denial of a motion for an acquittal we consider
the evidence in the light most favorable to the State.  See State v. Cumming,
634 A.2d 953, 956 (Me. 1993).  Jury verdicts are vacated only when no trier
of fact, acting rationally, could have found the essential elements of the
charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  See State v. Fox, 494 A.2d 177,
179 (Me. 1985). 
	[¶7]  The elements of the offense of false public report are:  (1) the
defendant knowingly gave false information; (2) to a law enforcement officer;
(3) with the intent of inducing the officer to believe that a crime has been
committed; and (4) the defendant knew the information was false.{2}  These
elements have been met in that Mitchell told both Coons and Holmes, law
enforcement officers, that his gun had been stolen by Neptune; he later
admitted that this information was false; and he admitted that he wanted
Neptune put "behind bars," thus admitting that he intended the police to
believe that Neptune committed the offense of theft of the gun.  The
evidence was more than sufficient for the jury to find guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt.  The jury did not have to believe Mitchell's trial testimony
which was that his first story to the police was the true story and his letter
and subsequent report to Holmes were lies.
	The entry is:
			Judgment affirmed.
Attorneys for State: Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney Julia Sheridan, Asst. Dist. Atty. 142 Federal Street Portland, ME 04101 Attorney for defendant: James S. Hewes, Esq. 48 Free Street Portland, Me 04101
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . Mitchell also appeals his sentence of 60 days in jail, but that appeal is barred by 15 M.R.S.A. § 2151 (Supp. 1999), because his sentence is less than one year in length. {2} . The relevant portion of 17-A M.R.S.A. § 509 (1983) states: § 509. False public alarm or report 1. A person is guilty of false public alarm or report if: A. He knowingly gives or causes to be given false information to any law enforcement officer with the intent of inducing such officer to believe that a crime has been committed or that another has committed a crime, knowing the information to be false; or . . . . 2. False public alarm is a Class D crime.