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State v. Stokes

Supreme Court of South Dakota

May 3, 2017

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
NATHAN DALE STOKES, Defendant and Appellant.



          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General CAROLINE SRSTKA Assistant Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          BEAU J. BLOUIN of Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.


         [¶1.] Nathan Stokes appeals from convictions of simple assault and intentional damage to property. He argues that the trial court erred in admitting purported business records (a text-message log). We reverse and remand for a new trial.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] Nathan Stokes is the ex-boyfriend of Lyndsey Braunesreither. The two met on Facebook and became involved in an on-and-off relationship for roughly four years. Stokes lived with Braunesreither in Sioux Falls from January 2014 to August or September 2014. They then dated casually until June or July 2015. They broke up at the end of July 2015.

         [¶3.] On August 13, 2015, Braunesreither returned home from work sometime after 8:20 p.m. and let her dogs outside. Braunesreither and her boyfriend at that time, Michael Blue, planned to meet at Braunesreither's home later that evening. Braunesreither's and Stokes's accounts of the rest of the evening sharply conflict.

         [¶4.] According to Braunesreither, her doorbell rang around 8:53 p.m. She expected Blue but found Stokes standing at the door. She told Stokes he needed to leave, but Stokes said he would not until she spoke with him. Braunesreither responded that she was going to call the police. As Braunesreither went upstairs to get her phone, she could hear the garage side door being kicked in. Braunesreither retrieved pepper spray from her purse and went downstairs to get the dogs. At that point, Braunesreither found Stokes standing near her fireplace and she discharged the pepper spray, hitting Stokes in the face. Stokes responded by throwing Braunesreither to the ground, wresting the pepper spray from her, and spraying her. Braunesreither then kicked Stokes, grabbed a bar stool from the kitchen to keep Stokes at a distance, and attempted to leave through the front door. However, Stokes blocked her, holding the door closed. Stokes told Braunesreither to go downstairs. Braunesreither then promised that she would not call the police if Stokes just left. Stokes ultimately left and she could hear car "wheels peel out" as he departed.

         [¶5.] Braunesreither then locked the front door, rinsed her eyes out, and called the police at 9:05 p.m. Two officers responded. Upon arrival, the officers confirmed that pepper spray or some sort of chemical irritant had been used inside the house. They also observed the bar stool on the floor. One officer further observed that the door leading to the garage had a split locking mechanism and a boot mark in the middle with scrapes and marks consistent with it being kicked in. Stokes could not be located by the police at that time.

         [¶6.] Stokes's version of that night was quite different. He denied being at Braunesreither's residence at the time alleged. Stokes claimed that he was at home, sick with the flu and texting friends. More specifically, he claimed that he was sick with the flu during the week of August 10, that he did not go into work on August 12, and that he was sent home after his first morning break on August 13. Stokes claimed that he spent the remainder of that day and evening at home napping and texting his friends Abbey and Rachel.

         [¶7.] Stokes was indicted on two counts of burglary in the first degree; three counts of simple assault; one count of false imprisonment; and one count of intentional damage to property. A part II information alleged that Stokes had been convicted of three prior felonies. An amended part II information alleged that he had been convicted of two prior assaults within the last ten years.

         [¶8.] During cross-examination of Stokes at trial, the State offered Exhibit 14 "as a self-authenticating business record." Exhibit 14 purported to be Verizon's log of Stokes's text messages sent and received on August 13, 2015, between 8:50 p.m. and 9:59 p.m., encompassing the time that Braunesreither alleged Stokes was inside her home. The exhibit showed no texting on Stokes's phone during the time of the alleged crime. The exhibit was offered to rebut ...

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