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Criminal – Abduction – Extortion – Procedural Default

Deborah Elkins//January 18, 2010

Criminal – Abduction – Extortion – Procedural Default

Deborah Elkins//January 18, 2010

A defendant who claimed a companion from an evening of gambling owed her $300, and who pulled a gun and escorted several gambling companions first around a trailer and then around Farmville in an effort to collect the gambling debt, has her convictions of abduction to extort money and use of a firearm affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

In her closing argument to the jury, defendant argued there could be no abduction because one of the victims proposed the trip around Farmville and both victims willingly went with her. To preserve an objection to the sufficiency of the evidence in a jury trial, defendant must make a motion to strike the evidence at the conclusion of all the evidence or a motion to set aside the verdict after the jury has returned its verdict. Defendant did not raise this specific argument in her renewed motion to strike at the conclusion of the evidence. In her motion to set aside the jury verdict, defendant incorporated only the argument to the jury regarding abduction for pecuniary benefit. The argument regarding the victims being willing companions is not preserved and we decline to consider it.

In several places throughout her brief, divorced from any law, argument or authority, defendant states the evidence was insufficient to prove abduction to extort money for pecuniary gain because she demanded money she believed belonged to her. Specifically, defendant asserts she “just wanted her money owed to her from a good faith obligation,” “nothing more and nothing less.” Though defendant preserved her argument that the evidence was insufficient to prove abduction for pecuniary gain in the trial court, she still fails to comport with Rule 5A:20(e), and in so doing, precludes our review of the question.

As to the issue properly before this court – whether there was sufficient evidence to support her convictions because the prosecution witnesses’ testimony “was inherently incredible” – the jury was entitled to disregard some of the testimony from the prosecution witnesses. The evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the commonwealth, supports the verdicts.

After a dispute over money, defendant pointed a handgun at the companion and, over the course of the next two hours, defendant accompanied the companion to numerous locations in Farmville in an attempt to obtain more money. During this time, defendant took steps to disguise a cell phone number when ordering the companion to call potential sources of money. All of this occurred while defendant displayed her .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun. Numerous witnesses testified on behalf of the commonwealth confirming the companion’s allegations. It cannot be said the jury verdict is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.

Convictions under Va. Code §§ 18.2-48 and 18.2-53.1 are affirmed.

Brown v. Commonwealth (Powell, J.) No. 0001-09-2, Dec. 22, 2009; Prince Edward County Cir.Ct. (Blanton) Joseph S. Massie III for appellant; Richard B. Smith, Spec. AAG, for appellee. VLW 009-7-557(UP),11 pp.

VLW 009-7-557

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