This opinion will be unpublished and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

C7-01-1984

 

State of Minnesota,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Ronald Vincent Johnson,

Appellant.

 

Filed October 15, 2002

Affirmed

Harten, Judge

 

Itasca County District Court

File No. K3-01-351

 

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and

 

John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, 123 Fourth Street Northeast, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Randall, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

 

HARTEN, Judge.

 

            Appellant Ronald Johnson argues that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to convict him of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.  Because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient for the jurors to reach their verdict, we affirm.

FACTS

            On 15 February 2001, appellant and his girlfriend, Rose Wilson, went to a casino in Wilson’s car.  Wilson drove; appellant did not have a valid driver’s license.

After gambling for a while, appellant and Wilson decided to return to Wilson’s home to get more money.  Wilson gave appellant her car keys and told him to warm up her car.  But as they were leaving the casino, they met Wilson’s niece, who agreed to lend them money.  Wilson and appellant then resumed gambling.  Appellant did not return Wilson’s car keys.

When appellant again needed money, he took Wilson’s car and drove to Wilson’s home.  Wilson neither consented to nor was aware of appellant’s use of her car.  While he was driving back to the casino, appellant was stopped for speeding and arrested for driving while impaired, fleeing a peace officer, and driving without a valid driver’s license.  Wilson’s car was impounded.

The next day, appellant told the police that Wilson had given him the keys so that he could warm up the car.  He also said that Wilson “didn’t think I was gonna take off” and “had no idea I even left.”  He continued, “[S]he don’t let me drive. * * * She knows that I—I don’t have a license.”  Finally, appellant acknowledged that he wanted to return the car to the casino before Wilson realized he was gone.  He was later charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

At trial, appellant testified that: (1) he did not ask Wilson if he could drive her car; (2) Wilson did not know that he left the casino, and (3) he was speeding so he could return Wilson’s car before she learned he was gone.  When asked if he had Wilson’s consent to drive her car, appellant answered, “Not at that particular time.”

Wilson testified that appellant neither had nor requested her permission to drive her car and that she gave him the keys so he could warm up the car.  She also testified that, in the month or so before the incident, she “mentioned” to appellant that she did not want him to drive her car.  Although portions of Wilson’s testimony were inconsistent, when asked if the “bottom line” was that appellant did not have her consent to use her car, Wilson answered, “Well, that’s the bottom line.”

The jury convicted appellant of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17) (2000).  He challenges the conviction, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that he knew or had reason to know he did not have Wilson’s consent to drive her car.

D E C I S I O N

 

In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s review is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jurors to reach their verdict.  State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989).  The reviewing court must assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary.  State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).  The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.  State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).

            Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17) (2000), defines the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as

tak[ing] or driv[ing] a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner, knowing or having reason to know that the owner or an authorized agent of the owner did not give consent.

 

Appellant asserts two points to support his argument that the state’s evidence was insufficient.[1]

First, appellant claims that he believed that he had Wilson’s consent because of their ongoing relationship and her prior consent to his use of her car.  But appellant admitted to the police that Wilson did not allow him to drive her car because she knew he did not have a license.  He also admitted that Wilson did not know he was driving her car and that he wanted to get the car back to the casino before Wilson discovered he had left. 

At trial, appellant testified that these admissions were lies made to protect Wilson.  We must assume, however, that the jury believed appellant’s earlier statements and disbelieved his testimony at trial.  See Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 108.  Accordingly, the jury could reasonably have found that appellant knew or had reason to know that he did not have Wilson’s consent to drive her car that night.

Appellant also argues that he believed that he had Wilson’s consent because she gave him her car keys, indicating that she trusted him and allowed him to drive her car.  But Wilson testified that she had previously told appellant she did not want him to drive her car, and appellant admitted to the police that Wilson did not think he was “gonna take off” when she gave him the keys.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to appellant’s conviction, we conclude that the jury could reasonably have found that appellant knew or had reason to know that he did not have Wilson’s consent to drive her car.

Affirmed.



[1] Appellant also argues that Wilson claimed that he did not have her consent to drive her car because she wanted the police to return her car.  Possibly she thought it might not be returned if she admitted letting an unlicensed driver use it.  But Wilson has continued to maintain at all times material that appellant did not have her consent to drive the car.