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State v. Seeley

Supreme Court of Connecticut

June 27, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
JAMES SEELEY

          Argued January 26, 2017

         Procedural History

         Substitute information charging the defendant with the crime of forgery in the second degree, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Danbury geographical area number three, and tried to the court, Russo, J., which denied the defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal and rendered judgment of guilty, from which the defendant appealed. Affirmed.

          Norman A. Pattis, with whom were Christopher La Tronica and, on the brief, Kevin Smith, for the appel- lant (defendant).

          Matthew A. Weiner, assistant state's attorney, with whom were Deborah P. Mabbett, senior assistant state's attorney, and, on the brief, Stephen J. Sedensky III, state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js. [*]

         Syllabus

         Convicted of the crime of forgery in the second degree, the defendant appealed. The defendant, who had been responsible for the dally operations of a company, M Co., sought to purchase a vehicle in the name of the company. Because the defendant did not wholly own M Co., the dealership selling the vehicle required a certified resolution signed by at least two different corporate officers. The defendant subsequently sent a certified resolution to the dealership purporting to contain the signature of a second corporate officer, B, through a fax machine located in the home of the defendant's father. Following a review of corporate bank records, B discovered certain unauthorized charges connected to the dealership. During a subsequent meeting of M Co.'s shareholders, the defendant referred to the purchase as a mistake and was visibly upset. B then pursued a criminal complaint against the defendant, claiming that B's signature was forged on the certified resolution. Following presentation of the state's case-in-chief during a trial to the court, the defendant filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal, which the court denied. Following the defendant's presentation of his case and the close of evidence, the trial court found the defendant guilty and rendered judgment of conviction. On appeal, the defendant claimed, inter alia, that this court should exercise its supervisory authority over the administration of justice to abandon the waiver rule, which provides that a criminal defendant may secure appellate review of a trial court's denial of a motion for a judgment of acquittal following the state's case-in-chief only by forgoing the right to put on evidence, in the context of bench trials. The defendant also claimed, in the alternative, that the state's evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Held:

         1. This court declined to consider whether to abandon the waiver rule in the context of bench trials, the evidence presented by the state during its case-in-chief having been sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

         2. The state's evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's conviction of forgery in the second degree: the state presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant forged B's signature on the certified resolution in light of, inter alia, B's repeated denial of authorship of the signature in question, testimony from the state's handwriting experts, the fact that only the defendant stood to benefit from the forged signature, and the defendant's demeanor when confronted at the meeting of M Co.'s shareholders; moreover, the state presented sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant acted with an intent to deceive the dealership, the defendant having been aware of the requirement of a second signature and having faxed the certified resolution rather than delivering it to the dealership in person to circumvent the dealership's policy of requiring in person proof of identification for business purchases.

          OPINION

          ROBINSON, J.

         The principal issue in this appeal is whether, in a trial to the court, the state presented sufficient evidence in its case-in-chief to support the conviction of the defendant, James Seeley, of forgery in the second degree in violation of General Statutes § 53a-139 (a) (1)[1] in connection with a document created to facilitate the purchase of a vehicle on behalf of a corporation.[2] In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented, the defendant claims that we should exercise our supervisory authority over the administration of justice to abandon the waiver rule[3]in the context of court trials, and review the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal following the state's case-in-chief, despite the fact that he elected to introduce evidence of his own. We need not reach the defendant's claim regarding the waiver rule because we conclude that there was sufficient evidence in the state's case-in-chief to support the defendant's conviction. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. In 2009, the defendant and Joshua Bennett formed a company, Miller & Stone, Inc., for the purpose of manufacturing and selling dietary supplements. By May, 2010, the shareholders of Miller & Stone, Inc., were the defendant, Bennett, Sandra Scott, E. Duane Meyer, and Sean Macpherson. The defendant ran the daily operations of Miller & Stone, Inc., while Bennett developed and designed its products. Although the other shareholders did not actively participate in management, their consent was required prior to any substantial expenditure of funds. Despite the efforts of the defendant and Bennett, Miller & Stone, Inc., never became profitable and was valued at less than $100, 000.

         In June, 2010, the defendant went to BMW of Ridge-field (dealership) to purchase a vehicle in the name of Miller & Stone, Inc. In order to do so, the defendant was required to submit his driver's license and numerous documents to the dealership, including a ‘‘Certified Resolution for Business Entity'' (certified resolution), which is the document at issue in the present case. Because the defendant sought to purchase a vehicle in the name of Miller & Stone, Inc., a company he did not wholly own, the dealership required a certified resolution signed by at least two different corporate officers. Generally, the dealership required the parties signing a certified resolution to provide identification upon submission. The certified resolution in the present case, however, was sent through a fax machine located at the home of the defendant's father, Ian Seeley, and the dealership did not subsequently request identification. On June 28, 2010, the defendant completed the sale in the name of Miller & Stone, Inc., and took possession of a BMW M6 automobile (automobile).

         Shortly thereafter, Bennett began receiving calls from customers who were interested in products from Miller & Stone, Inc., but who complained that the defendant was not following through on orders. A subsequent review of corporate bank records, which previously had been sent to the defendant's home, revealed certain unauthorized charges and checks sent to the dealership. After seeing these expenditures, Bennett and Sandra Scott's husband, Andrew Scott, drove to the dealership, where they discovered that ...


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