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COA: Lying to police investigating claimed restraining order violation is sufficient evidence of obstructing

State v. Jeffrey S. Clemons, 2020AP1450-CR, 9/6/23, District III (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (briefs not available).

Applying an almost-insurmountable standard of review, COA concludes there was sufficient evidence to support the circuit court’s finding that Clemons violated an obstructing ordinance.

First, the somewhat bizarre facts. Clemons initially reported to police that he was being chased by his ex-wife and her daughter in violation of a restraining order. (¶2). The two women were interviewed by police and said that they were the pursued, not the pursuers. (Id). Police resolved the credibility contest in Clemons’ favor and cited both women with obstruction. (Id.). At trial, however, Clemons changed his story. (¶3). The State dropped the charges against his ex-wife and her daughter and filed a misdemeanor obstructing charge against Clemons (later reduced to an ordinance violation).(¶4).

COA assesses the evidence at the bench trial in context of the jury instruction for criminal obstructing, as the ordinance in question has adopted those elements. (¶6). The dispositive “lie” appears to have been where Clemons purchased a Harley-Davidson bike; as he later changed that portion of his story at trial–and the officer testified that he relied on Clemons’ initial statements when investigating his claims about a restraining order violation–COA concludes there was sufficient evidence Clemons obstructed the officer’s investigation. (¶11). Given the standard of review, COA rejects Clemons’ arguments asking it to reweigh the credibility of the competing witnesses. (Id.). Likewise, it holds the State was not required to prove Clemons actually knew that his conduct would obstruct the officer as inferential proof is sufficient and there was adequate proof to support such an inference in this case. (¶12).

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