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State v. Buchanan

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

June 6, 2017

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
WILLIAM JESSE BUCHANAN, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 31 January 2017.

         Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 15 March 2016 by Judge Alan Z. Thornburg in Yancey County Superior Court Yancey County, No. 15CRS050081.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Ronald D. Williams, II, for the State.

          The Epstein Law Firm PLLC, by Drew Nelson, for the Defendant.

          DILLON, Judge.

         William Jesse Buchanan ("Defendant") appeals from his convictions on two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

         I. Background

         In 2015, Defendant filed a criminal complaint with the sheriff's office against his girlfriend for check fraud, alleging that his girlfriend had fraudulently signed and cashed three checks drawn on his account without his knowledge or permission. The checks were in the amounts of $600, $200 and $100.

         After filing the charges, Defendant went to his bank and completed a "Check Fraud/Forgery Affidavit, " listing all three disputed checks. Following Defendant's completion of the affidavit, the bank informed Defendant that it would place a six-hundred dollar ($600) provisional credit in his bank account based on the $600 check. The bank, though, informed Defendant that it would not provide a provisional credit for the $200 or $100 checks at that time. There is no evidence that Defendant ever attempted to withdraw, spend, or otherwise access the $600 provisional credit placed in his account by the bank.

         During the course of a criminal investigation of Defendant's girlfriend, officers discovered evidence that Defendant had lied in his criminal complaint. Specifically, officers discovered that Defendant had sent his girlfriend a series of text messages authorizing her to use the checks, which he had pre-signed, for the care of their daughter. These text messages clearly showed that Defendant's girlfriend obtained Defendant's permission to cash each check before doing so.

         Defendant was subsequently indicted for two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. Specifically, one indictment alleged that Defendant obtained $600 from his bank by means of a false pretense when he signed the affidavit of forgery of the checks "as stolen and forged when in fact he authorized and signed the check to be used by [his girlfriend]." The indictment further alleged that he attempted to obtain $300 by false pretenses when he signed the affidavit of forgery regarding the other two checks.

         Defendant was tried by a jury and convicted of obtaining property by false pretenses for the $600 provisional credit placed in his account and convicted of attempting to obtain property by false pretenses for the $100 and $200 checks. Following the jury's verdict, Defendant pleaded guilty to the charge of attaining habitual felon status. Defendant was sentenced accordingly and gave oral notice of appeal in open court.

         II. Analysis

         On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the charges against Defendant based on insufficiency of the evidence. Defendant further argues that the trial court committed plain error when it failed to instruct the jury that it could not convict Defendant of obtaining property by false pretenses (for the $600 check) and of attempting to obtain ...


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