IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
STATE OF WASHINGTON,
AARON JOSEPH RODDEN,
FILED: June 13, 2011
Grosse, J. — To convict a defendant of possession of a stolen
vehicle, the State must prove that the defendant knowingly possessed a stolen
car. Evidence that the defendant was driving a car with a punched ignition and
was the same color, year, make, and model of a car reported stolen, was
sufficient to enable a jury to determine that the defendant possessed a stolen car.
On December 9, 2008, Ken Perrigoue left his 1995 white Mercury Mystic
running while he ran into an AM/PM store to get a newspaper. When he came
out of the store a few minutes later, his car was gone. He did not give anyone
permission to take the car. When the police arrived to take a report, Perrigoue
had difficulty remembering his license plate number.
By checking the car’s
registration, the police determined the license plate number was 450 VTG.
Perrigoue testified that he had left his tools in the car. He also testified that the
license plate number was 415 VTG. The Everett police informed Perrigoue that
his car had been recovered and it was at the impound lot. Perrigoue went to the
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lot and found his damaged car.
Because the damage to the car would cost
more for repairs than the car was worth, Perrigoue’s insurance company totaled
the car and paid him $1,800.
On December 11, 2008, Snohomish County Deputy Jay Schwartzmiller
was on patrol duty. He ran the plates of a white car that drove by him and
discovered that it had been reported stolen. Deputy Schwartzmiller followed the
car for approximately two miles. The deputy activated his lights and siren when
the vehicle accelerated down a private drive. A white male driver jumped out of
the running vehicle, leaving the driver’s door open. The driver, Aaron Rodden,
ran east, and jumped over a fence into a large Blackberry bush area.
Deputy Schwartzmiller ordered Rodden to put his hands up three or four
times before he complied. Rodden climbed back over the fence and Deputy
Schwartzmiller handcuffed him. As the deputy was restraining Rodden, Rodden
stated that he was not running because the vehicle was stolen, but because he
had a suspended license. When Schwartzmiller placed Rodden into the back of
the patrol car, the deputy read Rodden his Miranda rights.1
Schwartzmiller that he was just driving the car and did not know that it was
stolen. Schwartzmiller noted that the vehicle’s ignition had been punched out
and that the driver’s side window was broken. Officers Wallace Forslof and Jess
Sanders from the auto theft task force arrived at the location and observed a
white Mercury Mystic, license number 450 VTG, with its ignition punched out and
a broken driver’s window. Rodden told Officer Forslof that the car came from a
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966).
No. 64948-5-I / 2
compound and that Dave and Ace had stolen the car in Everett, and that they had
removed the tools. The police had not mentioned any tools being removed from
the car. Rodden essentially told the police that he would never drive a stolen
car when he was drinking and driving. The police had the vehicle towed.
At the conclusion of the State’s case Rodden moved to dismiss, arguing
that there was insufficient evidence to connect the car that was stolen with the
car that Rodden was driving when arrested. The trial court denied the motion
and Rodden presented his case. Rodden’s girlfriend testified that she lent him
$300 to buy the car. She testified that she had seen his keys in the car when he
left for the store just before he was arrested. Rodden’s father testified that he
saw Rodden with the vehicle prior to his arrest. Rodden testified that he bought
the car from Bruce Mills and produced a handwritten bill of sale from the
Washington State Department of Licensing for a 1995 white Mercury, license
450 VTG signed by Mills. The bill of sale, however, did not have a vehicle
identification number on it. Rodden testified that the key broke off and he took
the cap off the ignition to start the car with a screw driver. Rodden admitted
accelerating the car and running, but testified that it was because he was scared
and did not have a license. Rodden denied saying anything to the police officers
about a stolen car or tools.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on the charge of possession of a stolen
vehicle. At sentencing, Rodden moved to set aside the jury’s verdict, arguing
that the State failed to prove that the car Rodden was driving was Ken
Perrigoue’s stolen vehicle. The court denied the motion. Rodden appeals.
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Rodden argues that there was insufficient evidence to show that the car
found by the police was the car stolen from Ken Perrigoue. In determining the
sufficiency of the evidence, our standard of review is whether, after viewing the
evidence in a light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could
have found the essential elements of the charged crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.2 A claim of insufficiency admits the truth of the State’s evidence and all
inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom.3 Circumstantial evidence is
considered to be as reliable as direct evidence.4 Credibility determinations are
for the fact finder and are not reviewable on appeal.5
RCW 9A.56.068(1) provides, “A person is guilty of possession of a stolen
vehicle if he or she possess [possesses] a stolen motor vehicle.” A rational jury
could infer from the facts that Rodden knew the vehicle was stolen. Although
the victim testified incorrectly that his license plate number was 415 VTG, he
reported his car stolen and recovered it a few days later at the towing yard in
Marysville, Washington with the driver’s side caved in and the ignition punched
out. His insurance company paid him $1,800 for the loss of his totaled vehicle.
When Perrigoue reported the car stolen, he could not remember the license
plate number and the police retrieved it (450 VTG) from his registration. When
State v. Brockob, 159 Wn.2d 311, 336, 150 P.3d 59 (2006) (citing State v.
Hughes, 154 Wn.2d 118, 152, 110 P.3d 192 (2005)); State v. Rempel, 114
Wn.2d 77, 82, 785 P.2d 1134 (1990).
State v. Salinas, 119 Wn.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992).
State v. Myers, 133 Wn.2d 26, 38, 941 P.2d 1102 (1997).
Brockob, 159 Wn.2d at 336 (citing State v. Camarillo, 115 Wn.2d 60, 71, 794
P.2d 850 (1990)).
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Deputy Schwartzmiller ran the 450 VTG license plate of the white 1995 Mercury
Mystic, he discovered that it was stolen and registered to Ken Perrigoue.
Schwartzmiller arrested Rodden, who stated he did not know the car was stolen
before any mention of the car’s status was made. Rodden also referred to tools
being removed from the car before the police did. In State v. Stowers,6 the court
found that evidence of the “color, year, model, date stolen and returned,
punched ignition, etc.,” was sufficient to establish that a car was stolen.
Knowledge that the car was stolen can be actual or constructive. 7 Here,
Rodden stated that Dave and Ace stole the Mercury in Everett and he could
show the police the spot from which it was stolen. The jury was entitled to
disregard Rodden’s denial that he made those statements to the police.
Credibility determinations are for the jury.8
At sentencing, Rodden moved to set aside the jury’s verdict and made the
same challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The trial court found that the
inference from all the evidence showed that the car towed to the tow yard was
the one driven by Rodden and identified by Perrigoue as being his car. For all
of the reasons stated above, the evidence was sufficient. Accordingly, we affirm
the judgment and sentence.
2 Wn. App. 868, 872, 741 P.2d 115 (1970).
State v. Lakotiy, 151 Wn. App. 699, 714, 214 P.3d 181 (2009), review denied,
168 Wn.2d 1026, 228 P.3d 19 (2010).
Camarillo,115 Wn.2d at 71.
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