CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS FEBRUARY 13, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE DOUGLAS E.
J. JACKLEY Attorney General CAROLINE SRSTKA Assistant
Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff
J. BLOUIN of Minnehaha County Public Defender's Office
Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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