STATE v. SLIGHTE No. 38620-8-II.

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. JASON RONALD SLIGHTE, Appellant.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division Two.
Filed: January 26, 2010.
Counsel for Respondent(s), Lori Ellen Smith, Lewis Co. Prosecuting Atty. Office, 345 W Main St Fl 2, Chehalis, WA, 98532-4802.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

QUINN-BRINTNALL, J.

Jason Slighte appeals his conviction for unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, arguing that insufficient evidence in the record supports his conviction. We affirm.1

On April 3, 2008, Officers Christy Fitzgerald and Michael Lowrey used a confidential informant (CI) to make a controlled buy of methamphetamine from Kelli Taylor in room 120 of the Centralia Econo Lodge. Room 120 was rented to Slighte.

Officers Fitzgerald and Lowrey obtained a telephonic search warrant for the room within two hours of the CI's return; during that two-hour period, officers watched the motel and saw only one person, Robert Plascencia, enter or leave the room.2 The officers knocked on the door of room 120 and announced themselves and their warrant. The officers repeated those actions several times and could hear rustling inside the room and people moving. After approximately 30 seconds, Slighte opened the door. The officers noticed a large, thick cloud of smoke with an acidic smell and unusual color. Inside the room, the officers saw Slighte, Taylor, Plascencia, another female individual named Rebecca Higgins, and two pit bull dogs. The officers also found inside the room a computer, an open safe with approximately $1,400 inside, including all but two of the prerecorded bills from the controlled buy,3 several pipes, scales, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Cell phones found in the room rang repeatedly while the officers were in the room. After the officers arrested Taylor and transported her to jail, she claimed that the money in the safe belonged to her.

The State charged Slighte with one count of delivery of a controlled substance and one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. At trial, the State argued an accomplice theory of liability as to the charges against Slighte and provided a jury instruction on accomplice liability. Higgins testified at trial that Slighte, her boyfriend, rented room 120 in his name but did so on Taylor's behalf because Taylor did not have the identification and credit card necessary to rent the room. The jury found Slighte not guilty of delivery but guilty of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Slighte appeals.

Slighte argues that the State did not present sufficient evidence that he possessed the methamphetamine found in room 120 with the intent to deliver it. We review a claim of insufficient evidence for whether "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Yarbrough, 151 Wn.App. 66, 96, 210 P.3d 1029 (2009) (citing State v. Rempel, 114 Wn.2d 77, 82, 785 P.2d 1134 (1990)). A sufficiency challenge admits the truth of the State's evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom. State v. Theroff, 25 Wn.App. 590, 593, 608 P.2d 1254, aff'd, 95 Wn.2d 385, 622 P.2d 1240 (1980).

Intent to deliver may be inferred where the evidence shows both possession and facts suggestive of a sale. State v. Hagler, 74 Wn.App. 232, 236, 872 P.2d 85 (1994). Mere possession of a controlled substance, including quantities greater than needed for personal use, is insufficient to support an inference of intent to deliver. Hagler, 74 Wn. App. at 235-36. At least one additional fact, such as a large amount of cash or sale paraphernalia, is needed to suggest an intent to deliver. Hagler, 74 Wn. App. at 236 (large amount of cocaine and $342 was sufficient to establish intent to deliver); State v. Lane, 56 Wn.App. 286, 297-98, 786 P.2d 277 (1989) (ounce of cocaine, large amount of cash, and scales); State v. Simpson, 22 Wn.App. 572, 575, 590 P.2d 1276 (1979) (possession of uncut heroin, lactose for cutting, and balloons for packaging).

A person is an accomplice to a crime if he knowingly "solicits, commands, encourages, or requests" the commission of a crime, or "aids or agrees to aid" the planning or commission of a crime. RCW 9A.08.020(3)(a)(i), (ii). Physical presence and assent alone are insufficient to establish accomplice liability. In re the Welfare of Wilson, 91 Wn.2d 487, 491-92, 588 P.2d 1161 (1979) (aiding and abetting requires that one associate oneself with the undertaking, participate in it as something one desires to bring about, and seek by one's action to make it succeed). But "[p]resence at the scene of an ongoing crime may be sufficient if a person is `ready to assist.'" Wilson, 91 Wn.2d at 491.

Here, when Officers Fitzgerald and Lowrey entered room 120, they found not only methamphetamine, but also a safe with approximately $1,400 inside, including the prerecorded bills provided to the CI, pipes, scales, and cell phones ringing. This combination of evidence supports an inference that Taylor, who claimed ownership over the money, possessed the methamphetamine found in the room with intent to deliver. And Slighte was not merely present in room 120 for several hours before the officers entered. He rented the room in his own name and opened the door to let the officers in. A rational trier of fact could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Slighte assisted Taylor in the possession of methamphetamine, with intent to deliver, by providing the hotel room where the drugs, paraphernalia, and money for deliveries could be kept. Thus, under a theory of accomplice liability, the State presented sufficient evidence that Slighte unlawfully possessed methamphetamine with intent to deliver. We affirm.

A majority of the panel having determined that this opinion will not be printed in the Washington Appellate Reports, but will be filed for public record pursuant to RCW 2.06.040, it is so ordered.

HUNT and PENOYAR, JJ., concur.

FootNotes


1. A commissioner of this court initially considered Slighte's appeal as a motion on the merits under RAP 18.14 and then transferred it to a panel of judges.
2. A police detective followed Plascencia, who was a suspect in the investigation, as he walked his dog through a nearby park and then entered room 120.
3. Police found one of the remaining bills in Plascencia's wallet and another on a table in the room.

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