This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Willfred Erick Sweetman,
Carlton County District Court
File No. K3981381
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Natalie E. Hudson, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Marvin Ketola, Carlton County Attorney, 202 Courthouse, PO Box 300, Carlton, MN 55718 (for respondent)
Barry V. Voss, Timothy Hickman, Voss & Hickman, P.A., Suite 2355, 527 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
A jury found Willfred Sweetman guilty of three charges stemming from the theft of money from a vending machine inside a Wal-Mart store: aiding and abetting theft, fourth-degree criminal damage to property, and possession of burglary tools. Sweetman challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. Because the evidence along with legitimate inferences from that evidence is sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, we affirm.
F A C T S
Cloquet police responded to a report that a vending machine in the local Wal-Mart lobby had been broken into and that money had been stolen. Two Wal-Mart clerks told the police that they had not observed the actual break-in, but a man had approached one of the clerks and asked for Wal-Mart bags. He then proceeded to the vending machine area where he joined a man standing near one of the machines. The clerks told the police that the two men went to the parking lot where a third man joined them. The Wal-Mart clerks provided the police with a description of the man who asked for the bags and also described the clothing that he was wearing.
The police examined the vending machine and found that the machine's hasp had been cut, the lock was completely missing, and pry marks were visible on the door to the moneybox. The police broadcast the incident with the information that the suspects were in a maroon, mid-size car.
Two Carlton County deputies who heard the broadcast went immediately to the Black Bear Casino in Carlton because they thought it would be a likely place to exchange a large number of quarters for currency. The deputies also contacted the casino and told them to be on the lookout for anyone attempting to exchange a large number of quarters for currency. As one of the deputies entered the casino parking lot, he saw three men in the lot walking away from a maroon car. A few minutes later the deputy heard on his radio that three men inside the casino were attempting to cash in a large amount of change.
The deputies went to the cashier's desk of the casino where they saw a man at the desk with the coins. They saw Sweetman standing a little behind the man and a third man sitting nearby. The deputies told the men to stay where they were while they collected the coins from the cashier. The coins were in two Wal-Mart bags.
Police determined that the three men had arrived at the casino in a maroon Chevy Malibu. The police towed the car and obtained a warrant to search it. The search produced a pair of bolt cutters and a screwdriver in the trunk, and a pair of pliers and a second screwdriver in the passenger compartment. Police also found quarters on the rear seat of the car and on the floorboard. In the car's window deck they found a stuffed animal displaying the label of the company that owned the vending machine.
A police detective interviewed Sweetman. Sweetman had the keys to the maroon Chevy Malibu. He told the detective that he had rented the car because he was thinking of buying it. Sweetman said that the two men he was with were close friends and they had been driving around gambling at various casinos. Sweetman initially denied being in the Cloquet Wal-Mart, but later admitted that he went into the Wal-Mart to get some bags for one of his friends. He denied any involvement with the break-in of the vending machine. The two Wal-Mart clerks identified Sweetman from a police line-up as the person who had asked for and obtained the Wal-Mart bags.
At trial, the manager of the vending machine company testified that approximately $279.50 was stolen from the vending machine and that the cost to repair the machine was $150. A forensic scientist from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension examined the bolt cutters found in Sweetman's car and the vending-machine lock hasp. From the markings he was able to determine that the bolt cutters had been used to cut the vending machine hasp. The jury also observed a 20-minute videotape of the three men in the cashier's area at the Black Bear Casino.
The jury convicted Sweetman on all three counts. Sweetman appeals, contending that the state showed only his presence and companionship with his two friends after the offense had already been committed, but that the evidence was insufficient to show that he aided and abetted any of the criminal offenses.
D E C I S I O N
In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, an appellate court must determine whether the facts together with the legitimate inferences drawn from the facts are sufficient for a jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offense. State v. Ostrem, 535 N.W.2d 916, 923 (Minn. 1995). A conviction based entirely on circumstantial evidence receives stricter scrutiny than a conviction based on direct evidence. State v. Jones, 516 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Minn. 1994). But the conviction will be upheld if the record indicates that the reasonable inferences from the evidence are consistent with the defendant’s guilt and no other rational outcome. State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1980). The evidence as a whole must make all other theories, except guilt, seem unreasonable. Ostrem, 535 N.W.2d at 923.
A person is criminally liable for aiding and abetting “if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime.” Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subd. 1 (1998); State v. Arrendondo, 531 N.W.2d 841, 845 (Minn. 1995). To meet its burden of proof, the state is not required to prove defendant actively participated in the primary offense. State v. Pierson, 530 N.W.2d 784, 788 (Minn. 1995). Instead, the state must only show that defendant played a knowing role in the commission of the crime and took no action to prevent its consummation. State v. Dominguez-Ramirez, 563 N.W.2d 245, 257 (Minn. 1997).
The jury found Sweetman guilty of aiding and abetting theft over $200 in violation of Minn. Stat §§ 609.52, subds. 2(1), 3(4); 609.05, subds. 1, 4 (1998). The evidence established that (1) Sweetman obtained two empty Wal-Mart bags from a Wal-Mart clerk, (2) Sweetman told the police detective that the bags were for his friend, (3) the quarters that Sweetman and his two friends had at the Black Bear Casino were in two Wal-Mart bags, (4) Sweetman was at Wal-Mart around the time the theft occurred, (5) Sweetman was seen leaving the Wal-Mart parking lot with two men, both of whom were with him later at the casino attempting to exchange the quarters for currency, (6) quarters were found in the back seat of Sweetman’s car, (7) a stuffed animal bearing the logo of the vending machine company was found in Sweetman’s car, (8) the bolt cutters that cut the hasp on the vending machine were found in Sweetman's trunk, and (9) Sweetman had the keys for, and admitted that he had been driving, the car that had transported the three men from the parking lot to the casino.
From this evidence a jury could rationally infer Sweetman’s active participation in the theft of the coins from the vending machine. The jury could reasonably conclude that the purpose behind Sweetman’s obtaining the bags was to hold the coins that were stolen from the vending machine. See Ostrem, 535 N.W.2d at 923 (concluding that a jury’s conviction is proper if the record indicates that the reasonable inferences from the evidence are consistent with the defendant’s guilt and no other rational outcome). The evidence as a whole makes any other theory unreasonable.
The jury also found Sweetman guilty of aiding and abetting fourth-degree criminal damage to property in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.595, subd. 3; 609.05, subds. 1, 4 (1998). The significant evidence supporting this conviction is the forensic scientist's identification of the bolt cutters taken from Sweetman's trunk as the same bolt cutters that destroyed the locking mechanism on the vending machine. In addition, the jury heard the evidence of Sweetman's presence and participation in the events surrounding the theft. This evidence amply supported the conclusion that Sweetman aided and abetted in damaging the vending machine.
Sweetman's third conviction is for aiding and abetting possession of felony burglary or theft tools in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.59; 609.05, subds. 1, 4 (1998). The evidence establishes that (1) the bolt cutters and other tools were found in Sweetman’s rental car, (2) forensic analysis revealed that those particular bolt cutters had cut the hasp of the vending machine, (3) Sweetman possessed the only set of keys to the car, and (4) Sweetman admitted to driving the car the entire evening. No rational explanation has been advanced that would support a theory other than that Sweetman possessed the tools that were found in the passenger compartment and trunk of the car that he had rented and was driving.
Taken as a whole, the evidence and its logical inferences support the jury's finding that Sweetman is guilty of aiding and abetting theft over $200, criminal damage to property, and possession of burglary or theft tools.