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State v. Golder

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 5, 2017

THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA,
v.
KENNETH VERNON GOLDER, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 22 March 2017.

         Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 12 October 2015 by Judge Henry W. Hight, Jr. in Wake County Superior Court No. 14CRS000129.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Michael T. Henry, for the State.

          Anne Bleyman, for defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         Kenneth Vernon Golder II ("Defendant") appeals the trial judgments of obtaining property by false pretenses, accessing a government computer, altering court records, and unlicensed bail bonding. Defendant has challenged both the indictment and sufficiency of the evidence for his unlicensed bail bonding conviction, as well as the sufficiency of the evidence for the aiding and abetting theory of criminal liability and the obtaining property by false pretenses conviction. After careful review of Defendant's assignments of error, we find Defendant received a fair trial free from error.

         Defendant has also petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari seeking review if we were to find service of his notice of appeal to be deficient, and we see no need to grant this petition. It is the filing of the notice of appeal that confers jurisdiction upon this Court, not the service of the notice of appeal. Lee v. Winget Rd., LLC, 204 N.C.App. 96, 100, 693 S.E.2d 684, 688 (2010) (citation omitted). The State has entered no objection to any lack of service and has participated in this appeal, thereby waiving service of Defendant's notice of appeal. See Hale v. Afro-American Arts International, 335 N.C. 231, 232, 436 S.E.2d 588, 589 (1993).

         Factual & Procedural Background

         In September 1999, Kelvin Ballentine ("Ballentine") joined the Wake County Clerk's Office ("Clerk" or "Clerk's Office") where he was employed in various capacities until 2013. Ballentine was the Bond Forfeiture Clerk from 2006 until 2008, when he joined the estates division of the Clerk's Office. As Bond Forfeiture Clerk, Ballentine worked with the bail bondsmen in Wake County and, in agreement with several bondsmen, began a scheme in 2006 by which he would use his access to the State's automated Civil Case Processing System ("VCAP") to enter false data into the system in exchange for cash. Specifically, Ballentine agreed to enter data into VCAP that would show motions to set aside bond forfeitures had been filed with the Clerk, even though no motions were in fact filed.

         When a defendant fails to appear on their court date, any posted bond is considered forfeited and is recorded as such by the clerk. After notification of forfeiture from the Clerk, the bondsman has 150 days to either bring the defendant client into custody or dispute liability for the bond.

         Monies collected from bond forfeitures go to the county board of education. A motion to set aside a bond forfeiture must be filed with the Clerk and served upon the school board. The board has twenty days to file an objection to the motion, otherwise it is automatically granted and the bondsman is relieved of liability for the bond. Ballentine knew that the Wake County School Board ("School Board"), if no physical set aside motion was filed, would have "no way of knowing" it should contest the motion and the bondsman's liability would be relieved automatically.

         In 2007, Ballentine met with Defendant at his bonding company office to discuss this scheme. The two men reached an agreement where Defendant would provide a list of cases, with case numbers, names of the defendant clients and bond amounts, and then Ballentine would enter fictitious motions to set aside into the VCAP system. For these fictitious entries, Ballentine would be paid between $500.00 and $2, 000.00 in cash.

         This scheme continued from 2007 until November 2012. During that time, Defendant would send his case list through text message to Ballentine. Defendant would then generally drop an envelope of cash into Ballentine's vehicle through a window left cracked for this purpose, although Defendant occasionally paid Ballentine in person.

         In 2012, Ballentine decided he could no longer assist Defendant and ended their scheme. In 2013, the Clerk received information regarding irregularities in several bond forfeiture cases and, in conjunction with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Wake County District Attorney's Office, began an investigation. Many of the questionable cases had no physical set aside motions in the Clerk's files, and neither the State, nor the School Board, had copies of the motions and notices that should have been in their files.

         Ballentine could only make entries into VCAP through his username, thereby leaving digital fingerprints showing a pattern of unauthorized entries of set aside motions with no corresponding physical copies. Ballentine was confronted, relieved of his duties with the Clerk's Office, and he eventually made a full disclosure to the State Bureau of Investigation. Of at least 300 cases impacted by Ballentine's fictitious entries, 137 were associated with Defendant and these had an aggregate value of $480, 100.00.

         On February 25, 2014, Defendant was indicted for the felonies of obtaining property by false pretenses worth $100, 000.00 or more, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-100; unlawfully accessing a government computer, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-454.1; and unlawfully altering court records, in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-221.2. Defendant was also indicted for the misdemeanors of a bail bonding violation, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-71-95; and unlicensed bail bonding, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-71-40. Defendant was tried before a jury in Wake County Superior Court starting on October 5, 2015. The trial court dismissed the bail bond violation during trial.

         On October 12, 2015, the jury found Defendant guilty of obtaining property valued below $100, 000.00 by false pretenses, unlawfully accessing a government computer, unlawfully altering court records, and unlicensed bail bonding. Defendant was sentenced to individual terms of imprisonment running consecutively totaling from thirty-five months to forty-three months, including forty-five days imprisonment for the unlicensed bail bonding conviction, and $480, 100.00 in restitution for the obtaining property by false pretenses conviction. Defendant filed written notice of appeal on October 21, 2015, but this notice ...


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