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In re C.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

May 9, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF C.G., Appellant

          On Appeal from the 305th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No. JD-17-00800-X

          Before Justices Francis, Fillmore, and Whitehill.



         C.G., a minor, appeals the trial court's judgment committing him to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for ten years with possible transfer to the adult prison system. In his sole issue, C.G. contends the trial court abused its discretion by committing him to TJJD because the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the required statutory findings. We affirm.

         The State filed a petition alleging C.G., fourteen years of age, was a child engaged in delinquent conduct. The petition alleged that on May 4, 2017, C.G. committed theft by intentionally and knowingly appropriating a purse and its contents from the person of Melissa Hite. Eight days later, the State filed a second petition, adding an allegation that on May 29, 2014, C.G. committed aggravated robbery; specifically, the petition alleged that while committing theft of property of Brenda Kappos, C.G. used or exhibited a firearm and intentionally or knowingly threatened or placed Kappos in fear of imminent bodily injury or death.

         A predisposition report filed by the Juvenile Probation Department two days later stated appellant and another male suspect exited a stolen Acura and approached a woman standing outside her truck. The two suspects demanded cash from the woman at gunpoint and then forced her into the truck while they drove around trying to find a Wells Fargo ATM so they could use her ATM card. Once they found the bank, they tried to use the card but were unsuccessful. The suspects drove the truck to another location and got out, and the complainant jumped in the driver's seat and sped away.

         The report also detailed the allegations of the theft. According to the report, a woman was seated on a bench at a DART station when two juveniles "snatched" her purse from her arm and fled. The woman chased the suspects and yelled for help. Two witnesses helped detain the suspects, one of whom was identified as C.G.

         The trial court conducted an adjudication and disposition hearing. At the hearing, C.G. pleaded true to the allegations in the petition. The trial court accepted C.G.'s pleas, found he was a child engaged in delinquent conduct, and found he was subject to a determinate sentence for aggravated robbery. The trial court then heard evidence regarding the aggravated robbery.

         C.G. testified he and three others--John, Luke, and Petie-- were involved in the offense. According to C.G., John and Luke "ran up" on the lady and John pushed her into her truck; Petie drove the Acura that took them to the location. C.G. told the court he dropped "Luke at the Acura with [John] and Petie" and witnessed the event from a different vehicle. Afterwards, he said the others called him to see if he knew how to use the woman's ATM card. C.G. said he "was about to approach" the bank's ATM machine, but decided to give the card back to Luke. On cross-examination, C.G. said he tried to tell the others "not to do it" but they "kept pushing the lady" and John "shoved" her into the vehicle. When asked his role in the aggravated robbery, C.G. said, "With the ATM machine."

         Kappos gave a vastly different version of C.G.'s role in the offense. She testified she arrived in Dallas from Austin shortly after 11 p.m. to visit her daughter and granddaughter. She parked her truck on the street temporarily so she could unload her belongings when two "kids" suddenly "rushed at" her. One of the kids was C.G. Kappos said C.G. shoved a gun into her stomach and demanded her money. When she refused to get in the truck with them, the other boy put a gun to her temple and another gun was put in her back. They told her to "get in the truck or you are dead."

         Kappos said the boys shoved her into the truck and forced her at gunpoint onto the floorboard in the back seat. C.G. was in the backseat with her, holding a gun on her, while the other boy drove. They wanted money, and Kappos gave C.G. $80 that was in her purse, but the boys were disappointed with the amount. She told them her money was in the bank and offered them her ATM card. During this ordeal, Kappos said the driver kept telling C.G. to "kill her, just kill her, just kill her." Both boys threatened her family and said they would find her daughter and get money from her.

         The boys drove to a nearby townhome where she believed one of them lived; the driver talked to an adult through a window, showed off the truck they had stolen, and said Kappos was going to get them more money. From there, she tried to give them directions to an ATM she was familiar with, but the drive was "scary" because the driver went down the wrong way on one-way streets and ran red lights and stop signs. She said her abductors wanted to stay on "dark streets" and she believed they were going to get her money, dump the truck, and leave her "for dead."

         Eventually, they found a Wells Fargo ATM machine, but neither boy could figure out how to use her card. They accused Kappos of lying to them about the card code and said she "was dead." The driver drove to a dark street and the two boys got out. While they were out of the vehicle, Kappos "jumped into the front" and drove off. She went to a Target, but it was closed. An employee was leaving, and she asked him to call 911. She was "too scared" to stay because the parking lot was empty so she drove to another location and had the police come there. Kappos suffered a bruise to her leg from the gun being held to it. She said other than "poking the guns" at her, her assailants "weren't physical" with her. She testified she believed the boys were going to kill her and believed C.G. should "do his time."

         Hope Valanos, the court assessment officer for the Juvenile Department, testified C.G. was in need of rehabilitation, and said a disposition should be made for the protection of the public and C.G. Valanos said the department recommended C.G. be placed on probation for one year at the Lyle B. Medlock facility, and she stood by that recommendation after hearing Kappos's testimony. Valanos said a co-worker spoke to Kappos about restitution, but no one talked to her about what she went through during the robbery. Although the department did not know three weapons had been used, it considered Kappos to have been kidnapped and her life threatened. When asked if she believed C.G. was taking responsibility for his actions, Valanos said, "I don't know." Valanos recommended drug intervention for C.G. and acknowledged he could get it at TJJD. She also testified C.G. had committed a third offense, unlawful use of a motor vehicle on May 1, but no charges were filed. She said the department found supervision in C.G.'s home "questionable" and said C.G. had poor attendance at school and a ...

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