THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NORTHAMPTON COUNTY W. Revell Lewis, III,
Brandon L. Wilder (Bush & Taylor, P.C., on brief), for
H. Anderson, III, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R.
Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Humphreys, O'Brien and AtLee
J. HUMPHREYS, JUDGE.
a bench trial on December 28, 2017, the Circuit Court of
Northampton County ("circuit court") found
appellant Lamberto Maldonado ("Maldonado") guilty
of misdemeanor obstruction of justice, in violation of Code
§ 18.2-460(A). The circuit court later sentenced
Maldonado to twelve months in jail, with nine months
suspended. On appeal, Maldonado argues that "[t]he
[circuit] court erred in denying [his] motion to strike and
finding him guilty of obstruction when the evidence was
insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [he]
either hindered the authorities' ability to perform their
job or made the authorities' job more difficult."
evidence reflects that on the evening and early morning hours
of December 29-30, 2016, Maldonado's son, Everardo, was
at Kelly's Pub in Cape Charles. Before arriving at
Kelly's Pub, Everardo picked up a friend, Justin Travis
("Travis"), in a Nissan pickup truck registered to
Maldonado. Everardo and Travis then traveled to Kelly's
Pub and proceeded to consume alcoholic beverages.
Brady ("Brady"), an acquaintance of both Everardo
and Travis, was at Kelly's Pub that same evening. Brady
and Everardo exchanged phone numbers that night. According to
Brady, both Everardo and Travis were drinking alcohol at
Kelly's Pub. She also described Travis as "extremely
intoxicated-basically sleeping at the bar, and Everardo
wasn't as intoxicated, but there were indications that
they were tipsy." Brady left Kelly's Pub about the
same time as Everardo and Travis. As Everardo and Travis
left, Brady witnessed Everardo in the driver's seat of
the pickup truck and Travis in the passenger seat.
received a telephone call from Everardo at approximately 2:33
a.m. According to Everardo, "there had been some type of
accident." Everardo also asked Brady to "come and
get him." Though Brady told Everardo that she would come
and get him, she did not do so.
approximately 3:10 a.m., Deputy Roger Pike ("Deputy
Pike") of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office
was dispatched to investigate a car accident off of
northbound Route 184 in Northampton County. When Deputy Pike
arrived at the scene of the accident, he saw that a Nissan
pickup truck had lost control on the right side of the
highway, rolled over, hit a ditch, and made several turns.
The pickup truck came to rest approximately 100-200 feet off
the highway. Deputy Pike stated that the pickup truck was not
easily visible from the highway. Additionally, while Deputy
Pike did not see anyone inside or around the scene of the
accident upon his arrival, he found a cell phone inside of
the pickup truck.
Deputy Pike's investigation, Maldonado's daughter,
Sonia, approached the scene of the accident and identified
herself. Deputy Pike noted that Sonia arrived at the scene of
the accident approximately ten minutes after he did. During
this initial encounter, Deputy Pike explained to Sonia that
he was attempting to find the driver of the pickup truck.
Sonia told Deputy Pike that the pickup truck was registered
to her father, Maldonado, but "that someone took the
truck from her dad's." Sonia also stated that she
"didn't know who had taken [the pickup truck], and
then she started asking questions later on about how to
report it stolen." Before leaving the scene of the
accident, Sonia provided Deputy Pike with her cell phone
Pike spoke with Maldonado at approximately 3:47 a.m. at
Maldonado's home- the registered address for the pickup
truck. Deputy Pike asked Maldonado if he knew where the
pickup truck was or if anyone had taken it. Maldonado,
however, only answered Deputy Pike's questions with the
assistance of Sonia as a translator. Further, Deputy Pike
indicated that he did not know if Maldonado understood the
questions that he asked. The record does not reflect any
substance of the conversation between Deputy Pike and
State Trooper Daniel Wallace ("Trooper Wallace")
also investigated the pickup truck accident. Similar to
Deputy Pike, Trooper Wallace stated that the accident was not
easily visible from the highway. Trooper Wallace called Sonia
with the phone number that she provided to Deputy Pike.
During the conversation, Sonia informed Trooper Wallace that
the pickup truck was stolen from her father's home and
that she did not know who took the vehicle. Trooper Wallace
also informed Sonia that she could be charged with
obstruction of justice if she made any false statements to
the police. Sonia subsequently became what Trooper Wallace
"consider[ed] aggressive . . . and insisted that the
vehicle had been stolen."
point during the investigation, Trooper Wallace traced the
cell phone discovered by Deputy Pike to Travis. When Trooper
Wallace called Sonia a second time and asked if she knew
Travis, Sonia denied knowing Travis "or why he would be
inside of the vehicle."
8:30 a.m. that morning, Trooper Wallace visited
Maldonado's home with Deputy William Lewis ("Deputy
Lewis") of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office.
Trooper Wallace hoped to learn more about the pickup truck
accident and locate the driver. At the time, it was Trooper
Wallace's understanding that Maldonado's son,
Everardo, also resided at the home. Upon arriving at
Maldonado's home, Trooper Wallace identified himself to
Maldonado and spoke with him in English. When Trooper Wallace
asked Maldonado if he knew the reason for the visit,
Maldonado replied in "clear and precise" English
that "[m]y truck was stolen." Maldonado also
"made a gesture to a parking space that would be at the
end of the [residence]." Additionally, when Trooper