in the Court of Appeals 22 March 2017.
by defendant from judgments entered 12 October 2015 by Judge
Henry W. Hight, Jr. in Wake County Superior Court No.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Michael T. Henry, for the State.
Bleyman, for defendant-appellant.
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.
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).
& Procedural Background
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...