Where appellant was convicted of destroying property worth $1,000 or more in violation of Code § 18.2-137, the prosecution met its burden to show that the fair market replacement value of the property exceeded the statutory requirement.
Appellant Spratley was arguing with a woman in a Wegmans grocery store when he pushed an electronic scale to the floor. The scale, a “KH-100 Bizerba,” could not be repaired and was no longer manufactured. Wegmans spent $4,090 to buy a “Mettler Toledo” scale that performed the same functions as the Bizerba.
Spratley was indicted for felony destruction of property valued at $1,000 or more, in violation of Code § 18.2-137. At trial, testimony from Wegman employees established that the Mettler Toledo performed the same functions as the Bizerba, that the Bizerba was no longer available.
“When the Commonwealth rested, Spratley moved to strike the evidence, arguing that the Commonwealth failed to establish the value of the Bizerba was $1,000 or more, as required for a felony conviction under Code § 18.2-137.
“Spratley claimed that the Commonwealth was required to prove the ‘fair market value’ of the Bizerba at the time of its destruction. Because the Commonwealth did not present ‘evidence of how old the scale was,’ ‘how much it [had] depreciated,’” and the original purchase price, Spratley maintained that the Commonwealth had failed to meet the statutory threshold for a felony conviction and asked the court to ‘proceed as a misdemeanor.’
“The Commonwealth responded that if Spratley was charged with grand larceny, it would be required to prove the fair market value of the Bizerba. However, the Commonwealth asserted that under Code § 18.2-137, it could prove ‘the amount of loss caused by [the] destruction’ of property by establishing its ‘fair market replacement value.’
“The Commonwealth acknowledged that the ‘value of the [Bizerba] scale may very well have been under the $4,00 that the new [Mettler Toledo] cost,’ but contended that ‘[w]hat matters is how much [the Bizerba] costs to replace.’
“Claiming that its evidence established that the cost of the Mettler Toledo was more than the $1,000 threshold, and that the Mettler Toledo was ‘the exact same scale’ as the Bizerba ‘other than the name on it,’ the Commonwealth argued that it presented ‘more than enough evidence  to overcome the motion to strike.’”
The court denied the motion and found Spratley guilty. The court also denied his motion to set aside the verdict.
The Court of Appeals affirmed.
“Unlike larceny statutes, Code § 18.2-137 provides that the ‘amount of loss’ caused by the destruction of property ‘may be established by proof of the … fair market replacement value.’ As the Court of Appeals observed, the ‘term “replacement” contemplates the cost of obtaining a substitute item to take the place of the original, destroyed item.’ …
“Consequently, we reject Spratley’s contention that the Commonwealth was required to prove the ‘fair market value’ of the Bizerba to establish its ‘fair market replacement value.’ Spratley’s interpretation of Code § 18.2-137 would render the term ‘replacement” meaningless. …
“Accordingly, the Commonwealth was not required to present evidence of the age, depreciation, or original purchase price of the Bizerba to establish its fair market replacement value. The circuit court’s finding that the fair market replacement value of the Bizerba was $1,000 or more is neither plainly wrong nor without evidentiary support.
“Stanbridge testified that the Mettler Toledo ‘work[s] the exact same way,’ has ‘the same design and layout,’ and ‘[p]erforms the same functions’ as the Bizerba. Stanbridge also testified that Wegmans purchased a Mettler Toledo because ‘[t]he Bizerba is no longer being manufactured.’
“This testimony supports the circuit court’s finding that the Mettler Toledo was an ‘appropriate replacement’ for the Bizerba. The Mettler Toledo cost $4,090, an amount in excess of the $1,000 threshold for felony destruction of property under Code § 18.2-137. Therefore, the Court of Appeals did not err in upholding Spratley’s conviction for felony destruction of property.”
Spratley v. Commonwealth. Record No. 181452 (Lemons) Dec. 12, 2019 (COA). Shalev Israel Ben-Avraham, Kathryn Cecelia for Appellant, Christopher Paul Schandevel, Elizabeth Kiernan Fitzgerald for Appellee. VLW 019-6-091, 9 pp.L