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Evidence was sufficient to support witness intimidation convictions

State v. Chanler Lee Guyton, 2019AP1409-CR, District 3, 10/6/20 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Guyton told a social worker for a county social services agency that she and four of her colleagues had violated his rights in a CHIPS proceeding regarding his son. He said he would deal with the matter “with my own hands” and things were “going to turn very tragic” because he would come to their office armed. (¶6). The court of appeals rejects his claim this was insufficient to prove the elements of witness intimidation under § 940.201(2)(a).

Besides the social worker to whom the threat was delivered, Guyton referred to two other social workers, the social worker’s supervisor, and the deputy director of the social services department. (¶¶2-6). Guyton has three arguments as to why the evidence is insufficient.

First, as to the deputy director and supervisor of the social workers, he argues the evidence didn’t show they would be witnesses because they wouldn’t be expected to testify in the CHIPS proceeding. But he forfeited this argument by conceding in the circuit court that all five of the persons were witnesses. (¶¶24-29).

Second, he argues the evidence doesn’t show he knew or had reason to know all five persons were witnesses given his testimony that he knew his case was in the postdispositional phase when he made his statement and that court proceedings were done. But the circuit court found this testimony not credible, as Guyton also acknowledged that there could be further proceedings if Guyton objected (as he was wont to do) to what the department was doing under the dispositional order. (¶¶18-20, 30-37).

Third, he argues the state didn’t prove he threatened the employees because of the their status as witnesses. After rejecting the state’s argument that this element doesn’t apply to prospective witnesses (¶¶39-41), the court holds that, given the deferential standard of review of the sufficiency of the evidence, the judge’s explanation at the bench trial for why this element was satisfied—basically, that Guyton’s own testimony showed he knew his objections to the department’s conduct could lead to a hearing at which the employees might testify— is entitiled to deference (¶¶42-45).

 

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