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Danny Arnold Rodgers v. the State of Wyoming

November 18, 2011

DANNY ARNOLD RODGERS, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Platte County The Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant Danny Arnold Rodgers was convicted of check fraud, driving while intoxicated, felony identity theft, and two counts of forgery. He appeals those convictions raising, among other things, claims of evidentiary insufficiency and a speedy trial violation under W.R.Cr.P. 48(b). We will affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

ISSUES

[¶2] Rodgers presents these issues with respect to his conviction for check fraud:

I. Does the Information state facts constituting the offense?

II. Does the instrument involved constitute a "check" as defined in § 6-3-701(a)?

III. Was sufficient proof presented that the check was not paid for insufficient funds?

IV. The document given to the jury as the "Information" was not the actual Information which it was considering.

Additionally, Rodgers posits this issue with respect to his identity theft conviction:

Does sufficient evidence support finding an economic benefit over $1,000?

Lastly, Rodgers raises the issue of whether he was denied his right to a speedy trial under W.R.Cr.P. 48(b).

FACTS

[¶3] The basic facts underlying Rodgers' convictions are largely undisputed. On the night of July 8, 2008, Rodgers entered a convenience store in Wheatland, Wyoming. He asked the clerk for an EFS Transcheck, which is a negotiable instrument in the name of a private company, EFS Transportation Services, payable through the Regions Bank in Memphis, Tennessee. As in the case of a typical check, an EFS check contains the name of the payee, the amount to be paid, and the date. Unlike a typical check, however, an EFS check requires a valid transaction number, an issuer number, and an authorization number. The intended payee, as dictated on the face of the EFS check, is responsible for obtaining and/or verifying the authorization number as a precondition to accepting the check.

[¶4] As requested, the clerk provided Rodgers with a blank check. Rodgers then initiated a phone call using the store's phone. The clerk assumed he called EFS for the necessary numbers. Rodgers began filling out the check, with the clerk standing across the counter from him. When his pen suddenly ran out of ink, the clerk took over and wrote in the numbers on the check as Rodgers relayed what was seemingly being provided to him over the phone.*fn1 Once the check was complete, Rodgers hung up the phone, and the clerk gave him $300.00 in exchange for the check.

[¶5] Rather than leaving the store after receiving the cash, Rodgers lingered to chat with the clerk and her 16-year-old daughter. After ostensibly having a brief conversation on his cell phone, Rodgers told the clerk that he needed another EFS check. By this time, the clerk had become suspicious of Rodgers and informed him that she would call EFS for the authorization number. She also told Rodgers of her intention to verify the validity of the first check. Rodgers then left the store. After learning that the $300.00 EFS check was not authorized, the clerk contacted the police.

[¶6] The Chief of the Wheatland Police Department responded to the call. He interviewed the clerk, collected the EFS check as evidence, and patrolled around Wheatland looking for Rodgers. A short time later, Trooper Shawn Stroud of the Wyoming Highway Patrol spotted Rodgers' vehicle on a highway seven miles south of Wheatland and initiated contact with him. Rodgers identified himself as Earl Hood and handed the trooper a temporary driver's license bearing the name of Earl Robert Hood, with Hood's corresponding birth date and Texas driver's license number, which had been issued to Rodgers by the Deadwood Police Department in South Dakota the previous day following an arrest for driving while intoxicated. During the course of their contact, Trooper Stroud suspected that Rodgers was intoxicated and, after Rodgers failed field sobriety tests, the trooper arrested him for driving while under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"). A subsequent breathalyzer test revealed a blood-alcohol content of twice the legal limit.

[¶7] Prior to Rodgers' arrest, the Chief of Police arrived at the scene and spoke with Rodgers. The chief informed Rodgers that he was investigating "a fraudulent check situation." In response, Rodgers handed the Chief $300.00, stating he "wanted to return to the truck stop and give the money back so this would go away." At the time, Rodgers did not claim that anyone was mistaken about the validity of the EFS check.

[¶8] Based on the information available to it, the State charged Rodgers under the name of "Earl Hood" with the misdemeanor offenses of DUI and check fraud. At his initial appearance in circuit court, the magistrate twice advised Rodgers of the charges against him and the associated maximum fines and penalties. Rodgers thereafter entered pleas of guilty to both charges. The magistrate accepted Rodgers' guilty plea on the DUI charge, but declined to accept the guilty plea regarding the check fraud charge because Rodgers failed to provide an adequate factual basis to support that plea.

[¶9] The magistrate imposed a 60-day jail sentence on the DUI charge, which he suspended in favor of six months of unsupervised probation, a fine of $750.00, with $350.00 conditionally suspended on his successful completion of probation, and a crime victims' surcharge and court costs in the amount of $180.00. As to the check fraud charge, the magistrate advised Rodgers of the potential $750.00 fine, as well as the possibility of $180.00 in court costs and crime victims' compensation, and allowed Rodgers to be released on his own recognizance under specified terms and conditions, including that he have his attorney file an entry of appearance within 21 days. The magistrate deferred setting a trial date on the check fraud charge pending the filing of counsel's entry of appearance.

[ΒΆ10] After signing the necessary court documents as Earl Hood and being released from jail, Rodgers left the State of Wyoming. The circuit court eventually issued an arrest warrant for Rodgers' failure to pay the DUI fine and to adhere to the requirements of his release on the check fraud charge. Rodgers ...


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