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Baldwin v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

July 17, 2018



          Melissa Hasanbelliu, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Rachel L. Yates, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Petty, Malveaux and Senior Judge Annunziata Argued at Alexandria, Virginia



         Roland Baldwin pled guilty to one count of sending a written threat to kill or do bodily injury in violation of Code § 18.2-60. On appeal, Baldwin argues that the trial court allowed, and considered, improper testimony at sentencing and in the victim impact statement before giving Baldwin the maximum sentence permitted by statute. Finding no error, we affirm.


         Baldwin was convicted in 2012 for making a written threat to kill or do bodily injury to M.T.; he was sentenced to five years, with four years suspended. Approximately two months after his release, Baldwin's four-year suspended sentence was revoked when he violated his probation by violating a protective order.[1] The protective order prohibited contact with M.T., the victim of the written threats for which Baldwin was convicted. Baldwin violated the protective order by waiting near an organization he knew M.T. visited often (the Center). When he began walking toward M.T.'s van, approaching to within one hundred feet, several people from the Center helped M.T. escape.

         After Baldwin's suspended sentence had been revoked, Baldwin wrote new letters which contained threats against M.T., her daughter, and the Center. Baldwin's letters included the following excerpts:[2]

People at the [Center] I will never forget what you have done. You have awaken the evil beast inside me. I have nothing to lose. Don't try me. This is between me and [M.T.]. Trust me, next time I won't let no one get in my way. I will achieve my objective by any means necessary; I promise. I have a new family now. Signed, 666. [January 28, 2013]
Enjoy yourself while you can. If I was [M.T.] and [her sister], I would try to crawl back into my mother's womb when I get out. A great darkness is coming. I can't hear -- I can't wait to hear your screams, I can promise you that. All hail the great dragon. Signed, 666. [February 8, 2013]
Satan is great. All I think about is what [M.T.] did to me and what she took from me. So I am going to take everything from her. She will be living the same hell I am but much much worse. Her soul belongs to me. [M.T.]'s nightmare is just beginning. See you all in hell. All hail the great dragon. Signed, 666. [February 22, 2013]
I have one year left, which I'm very glad. After having 5 years of my life taken away from me for words I didn't mean. . . . What [M.T.] did to me was very evil. Waiting 2 months to call the police to tell them I was at the bus stop waiting to do my resume at the library. I had long forgotten her then. But I remember [M.T.] now! [M.T.] and the entire [Center] should be on its knees praising God I won't make a very bad decision when I get out! [March 30, 2015]

         In 2016, when Baldwin finished serving his sentence for the 2012 threat, but before he was released, he was arrested and charged with making a written threat to kill or do bodily harm against M.T. through the letters referenced above. Baldwin pled guilty to the charge, and he does not challenge his conviction on appeal. He challenges the trial court's consideration, during the sentencing phase of his trial, of M.T.'s statements regarding Baldwin's first conviction for making written threats to her.

         According to M.T.'s victim impact statement and testimony, she met Baldwin at the Center and had dated him a few times. The Center is a gathering place for vulnerable and homeless individuals, and M.T. often took her severely handicapped daughter there. It provided her and her daughter a support network. M.T. ended the relationship with Baldwin when he began sending her threatening text messages. She stated that Baldwin "ended up sending twenty-five explicit death threats describing how he was going to brutally kill [M.T.], [her] severely handicapped daughter, [her] sister and others to punish [M.T.] for ending contact and ignoring his pleas to give him a 2nd chance." According to M.T., Baldwin described how he "staked out" the Center every day, watching for her van. He said he would have a gun so he could murder her, her daughter, and anyone from the Center who interfered. M.T. explained that on her first visit to the Center after Baldwin was released in 2012, Baldwin was waiting across the street from the Center just as he had described. When he saw her van, he began walking towards her and got within one hundred feet, in violation of the protective order to stay at least one thousand feet away. It terrified M.T. that even after a year of incarceration, Baldwin was stalking her in the manner he had described in his threats.

         In his subsequent threats, Baldwin blamed M.T. for reporting his violation of the protective order. M.T. explained that she found the later threats more terrifying than the first ones because prior to his arrest Baldwin only knew M.T.'s first name, and Baldwin said he was "hunting" her. M.T. hoped she could hide. However, when M.T. reported Baldwin's violation of the protective order, Baldwin received through case documents M.T.'s personal contact and identification information. Baldwin then sent letters to M.T.'s sister's home enumerating personal details about M.T. that he had uncovered, including M.T.'s prior residences, her work resume, her parents' names and address, where she has her car repaired, where she vacations, and even the hospital in which M.T. gave birth to her now-adult daughter. Additionally, Baldwin wrote in one letter details of how he would use the newly acquired information to track her down and harm her and her family. M.T. wrote in her victim impact statement that one of Baldwin's statements at issue in this offense, "Trust me, ...

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