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Pooler v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

November 19, 2019

YORHONDA MILLDRED POOLER, S/K/A YORHONDA MILDRED POOLER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

          FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF CHESAPEAKE Randall D. Smith, Judge.

          Erik A. Mussoni, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Virginia B. Theisen, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Beales, Huff and Athey Argued at Norfolk, Virginia.

          OPINION

          GLEN A. HUFF JUDGE.

         Following a bench trial, Yorhonda Mildred Pooler ("appellant") was convicted for assault and battery in violation of Code § 18.2-57 and statutory burglary in violation of Code § 18.2-91. The trial court sentenced appellant to a term of imprisonment of twelve months for the assault and battery conviction and three years for the statutory burglary conviction. Appellant now challenges the sufficiency of the evidence underlying her statutory burglary conviction. Because the evidence is sufficient to support a statutory burglary conviction, this Court affirms.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On appeal, this Court "consider[s] the evidence and all reasonable inferences flowing from that evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party at trial." Williams v. Commonwealth, 49 Va.App. 439, 442 (2007) (en banc) (quoting Jackson v. Commonwealth, 267 Va. 666, 672 (2004)). So viewed, the evidence is as follows:

         In 2018, Marcus Morris and Jamal Abd Al-Muqit Hasan-Bey lived at a mobile home located in Chesapeake (the "residence"), which Mr. Hasan-Bey owned. In early 2018, Mr. Morris was romantically involved with appellant. Appellant occasionally spent the night with Mr. Morris at the residence. Appellant, however, did not have permission to stay there on nights when Mr. Morris did not. When Mr. Morris was absent from the residence, appellant returned to her home in Norfolk. Appellant kept certain personal items in Mr. Morris' residence, including food, clothing, a toothbrush, and a comb. Appellant also had a key to the residence and assisted in paying utility bills.

         Appellant stayed with Mr. Morris in the residence on the evenings of February 19, 20, and 21, 2018. On the evening of February 22, Mr. Morris was at the residence along with his friend L.S. The two were watching television in the front room of the residence. Mr. Morris did not speak to appellant on February 22 and had not invited her to the residence that evening; nor did the two have any plans for her to spend that evening at the residence. Despite this, appellant and an unknown female accomplice went to the residence and kicked in the front door. As appellant entered the room, she yelled at L.S., "Bitch, you in here chilling with my man." The confrontation among the three women devolved to a brawl, during which appellant bit L.S. on her left breast. At Mr. Morris' direction, the three women eventually ceased fighting and exited the residence. Although a verbal altercation continued, each eventually left in their respective vehicles.

         Appellant was charged with statutory burglary and malicious wounding and opted for a bench trial. After the Commonwealth presented its case, appellant moved to strike both charges. Appellant argued that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate malice for the malicious wounding charge and that the evidence was insufficient for the statutory burglary charge because appellant resided with Mr. Morris at the residence. The trial court reduced the malicious wounding charge to the lesser-included offense of assault and battery. It denied the motion as to the burglary charge, finding that appellant "resided somewhere else" and was allowed at the residence "essentially by his invitation." Appellant presented no evidence and renewed her motion to strike. The trial court again denied the motion, stating that "it does require the breaking, but, you know, opening the door can be a breaking if it's not consented to." The trial court then convicted appellant for statutory burglary and assault and battery. This appeal followed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the trial court." Rowland v. Commonwealth, 281 Va. 396, 399 (2011). "The judgment of conviction will be reversed only when the ruling is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it." Cordon v. Commonwealth, 280 Va. 691, 694 (2010). Furthermore, this Court does not "ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Hamilton v. Commonwealth, 69 Va.App. 176, 195 (2018) (quoting Crowder v. Commonwealth, 41 Va.App. 658, 663 (2003)). This Court asks only whether "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id.

         To the extent the analysis of the sufficiency of the evidence requires this Court to interpret the elements of the offense, such review is conducted de novo. See ...


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