This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Welfare of:
Filed May 28, 1996
St. Louis County District Court
File No. J8-95-651440
Michael F. Cromett, Charlann E. Winking, Assistants State Public Defender, E-1314 First National Bank Bldg., 332 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Minnesota Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Respondent)
Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, Leslie E. Beiers, Assistant County Attorney, 403 Government Services Center, 320 West Second St., Duluth, MN 55802-1495 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant M.S.J.O contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his delinquency adjudication for tampering with a motor vehicle. M.S.J.O. also challenges the disposition order, which, among other things, placed him in the 21-day Chisholm House program. He asserts that such placement was unnecessary for his rehabilitation and was inadequately supported by findings. We affirm.
On September 13, 1995, at approximately 4:00 p.m., R.A. was in his home when he heard a noise, looked outside, and observed fourteen-year-old M.S.J.O. on the street with his hands by the driver's door of J.S.'s automobile. He immediately told his sister, J.S., that some kids were "messing" with her car. J.S. reported that her car door makes a loud noise when being closed and it looked like M.S.J.O. was attempting to muffle that sound. D.S. also stated that M.S.J.O. appeared to be shutting the door. M.S.J.O. then walked away accompanied by another male and a female.
J.S. called the police at approximately 5:00 p.m. when she found her steering wheel in a locked position and discovered a piece of metal in the ignition, which prevented her from fully inserting her key. Later, when interviewed by the investigating officer, M.S.J.O. denied seeing J.S.'s vehicle, but then changed his story to indicate that he walked by the car with two friends without touching it.
The following day at school, M.S.J.O. pushed D.S. against the lockers and swore at him. On September 27, 1995, D.S. reported that incident and alleged other current bullying incidents, albeit he had no prior relationship with M.S.J.O. The police immediately arrested M.S.J.O., charged him with tampering with a motor vehicle, fifth-degree assault, and harassment, and conveyed him to Arrowhead Juvenile Center. Three weeks later, M.S.J.O. was placed on home electronic monitoring.
After an adjudicatory hearing, the juvenile court found M.S.J.O delinquent based on the tampering and fifth-degree assault charges, but dismissed the harassment charge. The juvenile court ordered disposition, which included a six-month probationary period, an apology, restitution, restraining order, participation in a Violence Prevention Group if appropriate, and completion of a 21-day placement program at Chisholm House. The juvenile court explained:
Placement at Chisholm House, as opposed to regular community service time, has the advantage of providing a consequence substantial enough to impress upon [M.S.J.O.] the seriousness of what he has done, a group peer process under trained staff to provide the respondent with insight into the causes and nature of his behavior, and insights from Chisholm House staff into any problems that the respondent might be having requiring any further intervention or support. A regular daytime community service program would not provide these benefits and would not provide a reasonable assurance that [M.S.J.O.] would not re-offend.
D E C I S I O N
To challenge successfully the sufficiency of the evidence supporting an adjudication of delinquency, a juvenile must prove that the trier of fact could not reasonably find that he or she committed the charged acts. In re Welfare of T.M.V., 368 N.W.2d 421, 423 (Minn. App. 1985). We review the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution. In re Welfare of M.D.S., 345 N.W.2d 723, 727 n.1 (Minn. 1984).
Appellant argues that the evidence against him was circumstantial and did not establish that he tampered with or entered J.S.'s car pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.546(2) (1994). The supreme court has stated:
The circumstantial evidence in a criminal case is entitled to as much weight as any other kind of evidence so long as the circumstances proved are consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of his guilt.
State v. Jacobson, 326 N.W.2d 663, 666 (Minn. 1982). The stricter standard of review applicable to circumstantial evidence still recognizes that the fact-finder is in the best position to evaluate the evidence, and its finding is entitled to due deference. State v. Race, 383 N.W.2d 656, 662 (Minn. 1986).
M.S.J.O. claims that the evidence establishes that he was not near J.S.'s car at the time of the alleged tampering because two friends and a parent of one of the friends testified that he and his companions left the friend's home after 4:30 p.m. The juvenile court expressly found that the two friends were not credible, explaining that they were unable to account for the great length of time they claimed it took them to walk two blocks. Moreover, the juvenile court did not determine the specific time of the alleged tampering, stating that it occurred "sometime around 4:00 p.m., with little exactitude as to the time in the memory of witnesses." See id. (upholding jury verdict where time factors associated with events of evening of the alleged crime were not accurately determined).
The prosecutor presented strong circumstantial evidence showing that J.S.'s car door produces a loud sound when it is closed; that after R.A. heard a sound, M.S.J.O. appeared to be shutting the car door; that J.S.'s steering wheel would not have been locked given the manner in which she had parked; and that J.S. experienced no problems with her ignition prior to the incident.
We find no merit in M.S.J.O.'s contention that a finding of no wrongdoing is compelled because the circumstantial evidence was consistent with the rational hypothesis that a piece of the ignition broke off and became lodged in the keyway through normal wear and tear. Although the locksmith who replaced the ignition testified to that possibility, he acknowledged that he did not take the ignition apart to determine whether another object could have been inserted in the ignition causing the damage.
We conclude that the delinquency adjudication is supported by the evidence.
In delinquency cases, the juvenile court has broad discretion to order the dispositions authorized by statute. In re Welfare of D.S.F., 416 N.W.2d 772, 774 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Feb. 17, 1988). On appeal, we will affirm the juvenile court's disposition so long as it is not arbitrary. In re Welfare of L.K.W. 372 N.W.2d 392, 397 (Minn. App. 1985).
M.S.J.O. contends that the juvenile court committed reversible error by placing him at Chisholm House without evidence that the placement was necessary to restore him to law-abiding behavior. See id., at 398 (reversible error unless disposition necessary to restore juvenile to law-abiding conduct). Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (1994) provides a list of dispositions that a court may order if "deemed necessary to the rehabilitation of the [delinquent] child." A disposition is deemed unnecessary for rehabilitation if the severity of intervention is disproportionate to the severity of the child's delinquent conduct. L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 398.
In evaluating the severity of M.S.J.O.'s conduct, the juvenile court acknowledged that the absence of a prior record and M.S.J.O.'s cooperative behavior while on electronic monitoring reduced his need for rehabilitation. See id., (prior violations of law, repetition of unlawful conduct, and violation of probationary conditions increase need for rehabilitation). M.S.J.O. attempts to minimize the severity of his conduct, arguing that tampering is a petty offense and the assault produced no injuries. But the record supports the juvenile court's finding that aggravating factors exist; M.S.J.O. interfered with witness D.S. and bullied him. D.S., a person considerably smaller than M.S.J.O., experienced a severe emotional impact from M.S.J.O.'s actions. See In re Welfare of I.Q.S., 309 Minn. 78, 87, 244 N.W.2d 30, 38 (1976) (absent clear error, reviewing court will accept juvenile court's findings). Moreover, M.S.J.O.'s corrections officer testified that placement at Chisholm House is typically recommended for fifth-degree assault, although she did not recommend it for M.S.J.O.
It is not for this court to substitute its judgment for that of the juvenile court. We cannot say that the juvenile court's imposition of a 21-day placement in a treatment facility was clearly disproportionate to the seriousness of M.S.J.O.'s conduct so as to render arbitrary the disposition imposed.
M.S.J.O. cites In re Welfare of M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d 494, 499 (Minn. App. 1990), for the proposition that the juvenile court's failure to make the statutorily required findings constitutes reversible error. The juvenile court must provide written findings to support the disposition ordered, including:
(a) why the best interests of the child are served by the disposition ordered; and
(b) what alternative dispositions were considered by the court and why such dispositions were not appropriate in the instant case.
Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1.
In M.A.C., the juvenile court modified a dispositional order, placing a juvenile in the Chisholm House program because the original disposition
does not fit the crime. It does not fit the need of the individual here. I think [M.A.C.] has to get the realization that this is serious stuff. I don't think my original disposition will do that. I think Chisholm House might have that effect.
M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d at 496. On appeal, the M.A.C. court reversed the modified disposition, explaining that the juvenile court made no findings describing the Chisholm House program and how it would serve the juvenile's best interests. Id. at 499. In contrast, here the juvenile court explained that the Chisholm House program involves a group peer process, the program would provide M.S.J.O. with insight into the causes and nature of his behavior, and the program would provide insight into any further intervention and support needs. The juvenile court specifically considered an alternative disposition of community service but determined that community service would provide insufficient motivation for M.S.J.O. to understand and appreciate the seriousness of his conduct. We conclude that the juvenile court made sufficient findings to support M.S.J.O.'s placement in the Chisholm House program.