may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Robert Arthur Metz,
Filed May 27, 1997
Ramsey County District Court
File No. KX-96-517
David L. Warg, 600 Capital Centre, 386 North Wabasha, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for Appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
Appellant Robert Arthur Metz contests his conviction for attempted theft. Because the record contains sufficient evidence to support the conviction, and because the trial court did not abuse its discretion or err in admitting character evidence, we affirm.
An appellate court's review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach their verdict. See State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). This court must assume "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).
A person commits theft by intentionally taking the property of another with the intent to deprive the owner permanently of possession of that property. Minn. Stat. § 609.52 subd. 2(1) (1994). When one "does an act which is a substantial step toward, and more than preparation for" the commission of a theft with the requisite intent, he is guilty of attempted theft. See id. § 609.17.
Appellant claims the state failed to prove that he took a substantial step towards stealing a detached snowplow. We disagree. The record demonstrates that on the day in question (1) appellant was a passenger in a truck driven by Jason Jacobson; (2) Jacobson drove the truck up to a detached snowplow located in the back of a strip mall parking lot; (3) the truck had no license plates; (4) the truck had the type of front carriage mechanism required to attach the plow; (5) after the truck was driven up to the plow, it was reversed and then pulled forward again over the plow; (6) quick attachment was possible from this position, even without the use of the carriage lift mechanism; (7) Jacobson and appellant stood in front of the truck, between the plow and the headlights; (8) appellant leaned down towards the hood near the plow chain; (9) when the complainant, Joseph Sheehan, called out to the men, he saw appellant stand up immediately and heard the plow attachment chain drop; and (10) the chain required for attachment was found on the ground where appellant had stood.
While appellant claimed that he and Jacobson were investigating mechanical problems with their truck, the evidence showed the truck had no such problems and the hood had not been raised. When viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, the record supports the conclusion that appellant took a substantial step towards stealing the plow. See State v. Steinbuch, 514 N.W.2d 793, 799 (Minn. 1994) (conviction upheld where circumstantial evidence forms chain leading to guilt and is inconsistent with any other rational hypothesis).
2. Character Evidence
A trial court has broad discretion in making evidentiary rulings. See State v. Brown, 455 N.W.2d 65, 69 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. July 6, 1990). Such rulings will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. See State v. Kelly, 435 N.W.2d 807, 813 (Minn. 1989). Even if a trial court errs, however, "a reversal is warranted only when the error substantially influences the jury to convict." Brown, 455 N.W.2d at 69 (quoting State v. Loebach, 310 N.W.2d 58, 64 (Minn. 1981)).
Appellant challenges the admission of Sheehan's trial testimony suggesting that appellant may have a bad reputation. A private investigator attempted to speak with Sheehan prior to trial, but Sheehan refused to cooperate. On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Sheehan about the investigator's call:
Q. And what you told him is that you didn't want to have anything to do with the case, you didn't want to be a witness in the case, you didn't want anything to do with the case at all, right?
Q. And it's your testimony that you told him that because you didn't know who he was, you didn't know for sure who he was?
A. That was part of it.
On redirect, the prosecutor questioned Sheehan about his other reason:
A. From speaking to other businessmen in the area, I became aware of the people involved in this and I felt for me to say or do anything would put me at risk, jeopardize me.
Defense counsel's inquiry into Sheehan's decision not to cooperate sufficiently raised the issue to allow the prosecution's question. Moreover, this single, isolated statement is minor compared to the other evidence supporting the conviction. Thus, even if the trial court erred in admitting the statement, it could not have substantially influenced the jury's decision.