This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Darren L. Stebe,
Beltrami County District Court
File No. K0002
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, #500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, 207 Fourth Street Northwest, Bemidji, MN 56601 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Mark F. Anderson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
Appellant Darren L. Stebe challenges his conviction of first-degree aggravated robbery, contending the district court lacked sufficient evidence to find him guilty. We affirm.
In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court “will apply the same standard of review to cases heard before a court without a jury as is applied to those heard by a jury.” State v. Cox, 278 N.W.2d 62, 65 (Minn. 1979) (citations omitted). Therefore,
this court will uphold the district court’s finding if, based on the evidence contained in the record, the district court could reasonably have found defendant guilty of the crime charged.
Id. In making this determination, we “view the evidence in a manner most favorable to the state and assume that the district court disbelieved contradictory testimony.” Id. (citations omitted).
Appellant was identified by a bartender as the person who attacked and robbed him. Appellant offers several theories to support his claim of insufficient evidence. He contends that: (1) because the bartender stole from his employer by serving free drinks, he is the likeliest suspect; (2) it would have made little sense for him to steal from a bar where he had just spent “several hours pouring out details of his life story” and showing his driver’s license and tattoos to the bartender; (3) his criminal history does not include crimes of violence against people, making it unlikely that he attacked the bartender; and (4) the blond-haired man he viewed entering the bar the night of the crime resembles a former bartender who was suspected of stealing; suggesting that he and the bartender planned the robbery together. We reject appellant’s argument. In a bench trial, the district court is in the best position to determine the credibility of witnesses. See State v. Davis, 540 N.W.2d 88, 90 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Jan. 31, 1996). And as long as the district court’s finding of guilt is reasonable, we will not allow an appellant to relitigate the facts on appeal. See Cox, 278 N.W.2d at 65.
Here, the bartender, who had spent more than two hours serving drinks and engaging in conversation with appellant, claimed to have gotten three distinct looks at his attacker after he was hit. Thus, his eyewitness identification of appellant as the attacker alone is sufficient to support appellant’s conviction. Moreover, the district court found that the bartender had no motive to lie about the robbery and noted that if the bartender had planned the robbery, he would not “have allowed himself to be hit so hard for a mere $1,000” and would not have “continued to clutch the till cash” after calling the police but instead would “have hidden that cash somewhere and blamed the entire theft on [appellant].”
Appellant contends, however, that because the district court mistakenly found that the former bartender had left Bemidji prior to the robbery, it inadequately considered the possibility that the former and current bartenders planned the robbery together. We disagree. The district court rejected appellant’s theory because evidence was presented that the bartenders were friends and the court did not believe that the former bartender would have driven from Wisconsin to Bemidji to seriously assault his friend. Viewing all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, we conclude the district court’s finding of appellant’s guilt is reasonable.
Finally, appellant contends that, pursuant to State v. Langteau, 268 N.W.2d 76, 77 (Minn. 1978), this court should order a new trial due to lack of evidence. In Langteau, the supreme court ordered a new trial, “[a]lthough by crediting the uncorroborated testimony of the victim and rejecting defendant’s testimony denying any involvement one could justify the jury’s verdict.” Id. But Langteau is distinguishable from this case because in Langteau, (1) the evidence consisted solely of the victim’s word against the defendant’s, (2) the defendant was a friend of the victim and denied involvement in the crime, and (3) there was no physical evidence linking the defendant to the crime. In contrast, here, appellant and the victim were not friends, and there is evidence suggesting appellant’s involvement in the crime, such as the athletic sock filled with coins found at his brother’s residence and the inconsistent statements he made to the police. In addition, many of the details of the bartender’s testimony were corroborated by independent police investigation. Thus, we conclude Langteau is not applicable and appellant is not entitled to a new trial.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.