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State v. Jastrow

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

November 18, 2014


Heard in the Court of Appeals September 11, 2014

Page 664

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General June S. Ferrell, for the State.

Michael E. Casterline, for defendant-appellant.

DIETZ, Judge. Judges STEELMAN and GEER concur.

Page 665

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 16 September 2013 by Judge Ted S. Royster, Jr. in Davie County Superior Court, Nos. 12 CRS 51007-09.


DIETZ, Judge.

Defendant Steven Keith Jastrow appeals from his conviction and sentence on two counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Jastrow served as the " inside man" in a scheme to rob a known drug dealer at his home. On the night of the robbery, the drug dealer's brother also was present, forcing Jastrow's co-conspirators to split up and separately confront both brothers to demand drugs and money. Jastrow argues that one of his attempted robbery convictions must be set aside because, although there were two victims, there was only one attempted robbery, not two separate ones. He also argues that he cannot be held responsible for the separate robbery of the drug dealer's brother, which he contends was not part of the conspirators' original plan. Finally, Jastrow argues that the trial court erred by granting his request to represent himself without first conducting the proper statutory inquiry.

For the reasons set forth below, we hold that there was sufficient evidence to support Jastrow's conviction on two separate counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. We also hold that the trial court conducted a proper inquiry under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1242 before permitting Jastrow to represent himself. Accordingly, we find no error.

Facts and Procedural History

In September 2011, Jastrow lived at home with his mother, step-father, and half-brother, along with two other men, Ryan Bernatz and Kyle Horton. Bernatz and Horton were drug users and had begun running low on money and drugs. Jastrow, Bernatz, and Horton hatched a plan to rob one of Jastrow's friends, Patrick Smith. Jastrow occasionally bought marijuana from Patrick and believed Patrick would be a good person to rob because he was young, did not have a gun, and would not fight back. Jastrow also told his co-conspirators that the front door of Patrick's house always was left unlocked.

Horton testified that the group discussed the planned robbery between five and seven times. They decided Jastrow would be the " inside man" for the robbery because he knew Patrick and had previously been to his house. Jastrow drew Bernatz and Horton a map of Patrick's house and illustrated where Patrick's bedroom was located and where the money and drugs would be found.

On 3 October 2011, Horton gave Jastrow twenty dollars to purchase marijuana from Patrick in order to scope out Patrick's home. Once inside, Jastrow texted Bernatz and told him that Patrick's brother, Hugh Smith, also was present at the home and was sitting on the couch in the living room.

After waiting in the car for about an hour, Bernatz, armed with a machete, and Horton, carrying a gun, made their way to the front door of the house. Horton opened the front door and immediately approached Hugh on the couch. Bernatz went straight to the back bedroom where Jastrow and Patrick were located. Horton approached Hugh with the gun drawn and told him to " [g]ive up the stuff. Get on the ground. Don't make a move. Get on the ground. Give up the stuff." Horton testified that by " stuff," he

Page 666

meant " [d]rugs and money. Basically this is a robbery." When Hugh did not comply, Horton hit him on the head with the gun. When Hugh continued to resist, Horton yelled for Bernatz saying " [g]et in here before I have to hurt this guy."

At the same time that Horton first approached Hugh, Bernatz went straight back to Patrick's bedroom and opened the door. Bernatz pointed the machete at Patrick and asked him " [w]here is it?" and told him to " [g]ive it up. I know you have it. Where is it[?]"

After hearing Horton yell for help from the living room, Bernatz exited Patrick's bedroom and hit Hugh on the head with the blunt end of the machete. Patrick then jumped on Bernatz's back and an altercation broke out between Horton, Bernatz, Patrick, and Hugh. During the altercation, Horton fired his gun at Patrick. He then fired his gun three more times at Hugh. Horton and Bernatz fled from the house into the woods.

Jastrow was not involved in this violent melee and left the house either during the fight or just after it ended. Bernatz called Jastrow, attempting to locate him, but Bernatz's cell phone died shortly into the conversation. All three men eventually made it back to Jastrow's house. The next day, Jastrow spoke to the police, portrayed himself as an innocent bystander, and told the police he did not know the men who robbed Patrick and Hugh.

In early October 2011, law enforcement received an anonymous phone call naming Bernatz and Horton as potential suspects in the robbery. Officers went to Jastrow's school to speak with him about Bernatz and Horton. While interviewing Jastrow at his school, the officers realized that Jastrow was lying because his story had changed from his initial statement. The ...

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