Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Incidental Kidnapping

State v. Jones, Jr., 2011 VT 90 (mem.).

From the Truman Capote files comes a story of home invasion, violence, and kidnapping.  To the benefit of everyone, though, the victims in today’s case suffered a much more mild fate than Kansas’ Clutters. 

On February 11, 1997, Warren Williams was working on the outside of his home in South Royalton.  Williams and his wife, who was inside, were both in their seventies, and they kept a large amount of cash on hand to purchase farm equipment and supplies.  At some point in the afternoon, Williams noticed a car pull up with two men in camouflage and ski masks who jumped out and ran inside Williams’ house.  Williams, fearing for his wife’s safety, grabbed a pair of pliers and ran after them. 

This did not go well.  The burglars blocked Williams’ blows and slammed him into the wall.  They demanded to know where he kept his cash.  When Williams refused, one of the burglars fired a gun next to Williams’ ear and continued to abuse him.  The burglars then duct taped Williams’ arms and legs.  Williams’ wife was similarly bound with tape and the cord of a vacuum cleaner.  The burglars took $25,000 from Williams and his wife and left.  In all, the burglars were present on the property for approximately fifteen minutes. 

Soon after their departure, Williams was able to partially free himself.  He confirmed that his wife was stable and safe. Williams, unable to free himself entirely of his bonds, hopped out into the night onto Route 14 where traffic dodged him until his grandson from a neighboring house came to the rescue.

The crime remained a mystery for ten years until a tipster suggested Defendant, a relative of Williams, had done it.  Defendant admitted his crime to correction officers in March 2007 while being held on another charge. 

At trial, Defendant was charged with burglary and kidnapping.  Defendant pled guilty to both on the condition that he could challenge the kidnapping claim.  Defendant’s argument then and now is that there is not enough evidence to convict him on a separate claim of kidnapping as everything alleged was necessarily incidental to the burglary of the house.

On appeal, the SCOV dismisses this argument in a perfunctory fashion.  The facts surrounding the burglary were sufficiently different from burglary to allow the additional charge.  Defendant acted in a violent and reckless manner to confine Williams and his wife when it was not necessary to commit the burglary.  As such, there is ample evidence to support both charges, and Defendant’s conviction stands.

Defendant goes to jail and does not pass go.  He is also unlikely to get an invitation to next year’s Williams family reunion as members have likely expressed no interest in sharing do-you-remember-when-cousin-Stewart-robbed-and-beat-granddad-Warren stories at such an event. 

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