Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. Littles

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Essex

June 28, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
CASANDRA B. LITTLES.

          Heard: March 9, 2017.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Lawrence Division of the District Court Department on January 21, 2014.

         The case was tried before Michael A. Uhlarik, J. The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

          Philip A. Mallard, Assistant District Attorney (Lindsay M. Nasson, Assistant District Attorney, also present) for the Commonwealth.

          Joseph K. Kenyon, Jr., for the defendant.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          LOWY, J.

         The case before us challenges the constitutionality of a jury instruction for the crime of drawing or uttering a fraudulent check. The challenged instruction informed the jury that they could infer that the defendant had both (1) knowledge of insufficient funds and (2) fraudulent intent if they found that the defendant "failed to make good on th[e] check within two days after she was notified that the bank had refused payment because of insufficient funds." The instruction stems from G. L. c. 266, § 37, which designates the failure to make the required payment on the bad check within two days of notice as "prima facie evidence" of the defendant's intent and knowledge. We conclude that the statute's designation of prima facie evidence and the corresponding instruction are constitutionally infirm because a defendant's failure to pay a check within two days of being notified of its dishonor is, without more, insufficient to warrant a jury in finding the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, we conclude that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt in this case, and therefore we affirm the defendant's convictions.

         Background.

         The jury could have found the following facts. Between July 26 and 28, 2013, the defendant deposited four checks, totaling $15, 000, into certain bank accounts she held at TD Bank via automated teller machines (ATMs). The funds were credited to the respective accounts electronically on the day of the transaction, before the checks were finally negotiated. Each check was drawn from a single Citizens Bank account in the defendant's name that had been closed for years. All four checks eventually bounced and were returned to TD Bank by July 31, 2013.

         Between the time she deposited the checks and the negotiation of the checks, the defendant transferred funds between her accounts at TD Bank, in the manner of a "check-kiting" scheme.[1] After transferring the funds, but before the checks had been returned, the defendant made a number of expenditures, including nearly $3, 000 on Walt Disney World and Sea World tickets, nearly $600 on her cellular telephone bill, over $700 on clothing and shoes, and a $2, 000 cash withdrawal. The defendant ultimately overdrew her accounts at TD Bank by roughly $12, 000.

         In early August of 2013, a representative of TD Bank contacted the defendant by telephone and informed her that the checks had been returned. The defendant responded that she was out of town, but would remedy the situation when she returned. The defendant never did so, however, and testified at trial that she "forgot" and was overwhelmed by her own, and her mother's, health problems. By August 21, 2013, no repayment had been made and TD Bank sent a demand letter informing the defendant that she owed TD Bank $11, 664.20. Within a week, the defendant still had not made any deposit. When TD Bank attempted to follow up with the defendant, it discovered that the defendant's cellular telephone number was no longer in service.

         At trial, the defendant testified that she believed that her account at Citizens Bank was still open and that her tax refund had been deposited into that account. There was evidence, however, that the Citizens Bank account had been closed for years, and that she already had spent much of her $13, 000 tax refund, which had been previously deposited into one of her accounts at TD Bank, well in advance of the four bounced checks.

         The jury convicted the defendant on four counts of larceny by uttering a false check. The defendant appealed, and we ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.