This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


State of Minnesota,


Jason Duane McNaughton,

Filed December 28, 1999
Foley, Judge[*]

Pine County District Court
File No. KX-98-722

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Robert A. Stanich, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park St., Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and

John K. Carlson, Pine County Attorney, Courthouse, 315 Sixth St., Pine City, MN 55063 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3230 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Foley, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

FOLEY, Judge

Appellant challenges his conviction for receiving stolen property, claiming there is insufficient evidence to support that he knew the property was stolen. We affirm.


Appellant Jason Duane McNaughton met John Rys by frequenting Rysí roller-skating rink. Appellant, who is in the computer repair business, offered to upgrade Rysís home computer. Rys agreed, and told appellant he could go to Rysís house, which was usually unlocked. Appellant picked up the computer from Rysís house and returned to his own house to perform the upgrade.

On October 5, 1997, Rys paid appellant $194 by check, and $50 cash, for the computer upgrade. Rysís check was returned for insufficient funds. Rys subsequently made two deposits and the check cleared.

On December 13, Rys reported a burglary after discovering that his camcorder and a safe were missing from his home. Rys suspected appellant because appellant had access to Rysís house. Rys gave appellantís name and phone number to the police.

The police found the camcorder at a pawn shop a few days later. The owner of the pawn shop told the police that appellant had pawned the camcorder for $160 on October 20. The pawn shop owner showed the police a receipt for the camcorder that contained appellantís signature and an imprint of his driverís license.

After returning the camcorder, the police went to appellantís home and took a recorded statement that was played for the jury. During the statement, appellant denied taking the camcorder and told the police that his driverís license had disappeared.

The pawn shop owner testified that she recognized appellant as someone who had been in her pawn shop in the past. She also testified that appellant came back to the pawn shop before the two-month redemption period to ask her to hold on to the camcorder for another month. Appellant did not testify at trial. However, the defense theorized that appellant thought he was entitled to take the camcorder to cover the bad check. Appellant was found guilty of receiving stolen property.


Appellant contends that the state did not produce sufficient evidence to support its claim that he knew the property was stolen.

When sufficiency of the evidence is challenged, this court must review

the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach the verdict which they did.

State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). This court must assume that "the jury believed the stateís witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary." State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).

Where a conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, the verdict will be sustained on appeal when the reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with defendantís guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt.

State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988). A "jury normally is in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and * * * their verdict is entitled to due deference." Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430.

Appellant was found guilty of violating Minn. Stat. ß 609.53, subd. 1 (1998), which provides:

Except as otherwise provided in section 609.526, any person who receives, possesses, transfers, buys or conceals any stolen property or property obtained by robbery, knowing or having reason to know the property was stolen or obtained by robbery, may be sentenced in accordance with the provisions of section 609.52, subdivision 3.

The state presented evidence that the camcorder was taken from Rysís house without his permission sometime before December 13, 1998. The state also presented evidence that it was appellant who pawned the camcorder.

Appellant contends that, because the state failed to present any evidence regarding appellantís knowledge that the property was stolen, the state has failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for receiving stolen property. Although appellant did not testify at trial, the defense theory was that appellant thought he could legally take the camcorder to cover the bad check, citing his lack of sophistication as a businessperson. The jury rejected this theory.

It is usually impossible, and also unnecessary, to directly prove that a defendant affirmatively knew he was receiving stolen property. State v. Carter, 293 Minn. 102, 104-05, 196 N.W.2d. 607, 609 (1972). If the circumstances surrounding the transaction lead a reasonable jury to conclude that the property was stolen, and that the defendant should have known it was stolen, then there is sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. Id. Taken as a whole, the circumstantial evidence is consistent with the juryís finding that appellant knew or should have known the camcorder was stolen. See State v. Witte, 280 Minn. 116, 118, 158 N.W.2d 266, 268 (1968).[1]


[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Further, appellant's claim that he thought he could legally take the camcorder to cover the bad debt is without merit. Taking property without permission is stealing. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. State v. King, 257 N.W.2d 693, 697-98 (Minn. 1977).