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State v. Solis

Supreme Court of South Dakota

June 26, 2019

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
ROBERT JAMES SOLIS, Defendant and Appellant.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON APRIL 29, 2019

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE ROBIN J. HOUWMAN Judge

          JASON R. RAVNSBORG Attorney General

          MATTHEW W. TEMPLAR 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.

          GILBERTSON, CHIEF JUSTICE

         [¶1.] Robert James Solis appeals his judgment and conviction of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and simple assault against his girlfriend, Lexie Sanchez, stemming from two separate incidents. Solis claims the circuit court abused its discretion by joining the indictments for trial, and erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the charge of aggravated assault. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] Solis and Sanchez were in a romantic relationship and lived together in a duplex on South Lincoln Avenue in Sioux Falls. On April 23, 2017, police were dispatched to the couple's address after it was reported that a person there had called 911 and hung up. Before the call ended, the 911 dispatcher heard a female voice say "I got jumped" or "I got dumped." When Sioux Falls Police Officers Jeff Van Gerpen and Brant Van Dyke arrived at the duplex, the front door was locked and no one answered. Officer Van Gerpen then spoke with a neighbor who confirmed hearing noises coming from Solis and Sanchez's apartment. Upon hearing this, Officer Van Dyke entered the apartment through an open window and unlocked the front door to allow the other officers to enter.

         [¶3.] After entering the apartment through the kitchen window, Officer Van Dyke noticed glass and pieces of a broom on the floor. He then saw Solis walking down the hallway of the apartment. Solis had a cut on his forehead. Officers Van Gerpen and Van Dyke spoke to Solis, who claimed that he and his girlfriend had been jumped by three men while out for a walk. Solis did not provide any additional information. He also stated that his girlfriend had run off after the incident occurred and that he did not know where she went. Sanchez subsequently called 911 from a nearby gas station and informed police that she had called 911 earlier.

         [¶4.] Officer Van Gerpen was dispatched to a bank near Solis and Sanchez's apartment to speak with Sanchez. He observed that Sanchez was holding a cloth or shirt over a jagged cut on the left side of her face and that she was crying. Sanchez told Officer Van Gerpen that Solis had: struck her on the left side of her face with a broom; head butted her, causing bruising to her forehead; grabbed her cloth lanyard and pulled it across her neck to strangle her; and choked her with his hands. Sanchez also stated that Solis came up behind Sanchez and tightly wrapped his arm around her neck until Sanchez could hear a cracking noise. Sanchez reported that she struggled to breathe, made gurgling noises during this incident, and was close to passing out. She stated that during the incident, Solis stated "Shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up. You're going to listen to me. You're not going nowhere." Sanchez told Officer Van Gerpen that after she was choked, she left the apartment to smoke a cigarette. When Sanchez returned, she saw that Solis had a cut on his forehead and that he was sweeping up glass from the floor because Solis had head butted a picture frame. Officer Van Gerpen took photos to document Sanchez's injuries.

         [¶5.] Paramedic Monte Mathews tended to Sanchez's injuries shortly after the incident. He claimed that Sanchez sustained a two to three-inch laceration on the left side of her head, a one-inch laceration on the top of her head, and an egg-sized hematoma on her forehead. Paramedics transported Sanchez to the Avera McKennan emergency department. Registered nurse Amy Clay cared for Sanchez when she arrived at the hospital. Clay stated that Sanchez had an "obvious laceration" on the side of her head, a hematoma on the right side of her head, and some redness around her neck. While in the emergency room, Sanchez said that the room was spinning and that her head hurt. Clay removed a piece of plastic from the laceration on Sanchez's face. Ultimately, Sanchez received stitches and a CT scan.

         [¶6.] On July 19, 2017, police responded to another argument between Solis and Sanchez. On that day, Sanchez's mother, Calista Honomichl, and sister, Angela Roubideaux, were on their way to Solis and Sanchez's house to pick Sanchez up when they received a phone call from Sanchez. Sanchez sounded as if she needed help, so Roubideaux called 911. Around the same time, Solis and Sanchez's sixteen-year-old neighbor claimed to have heard the pair arguing, but did not call 911 because Sanchez had instructed her not to call police if she heard them.

         [¶7.] When Roubideaux arrived at Solis and Sanchez's apartment, she saw Solis tugging at Sanchez's arms and shirt. Solis let Sanchez go when he saw Roubideaux. Solis called Sanchez "a crazy bitch," and said, "She's hitting me. Stop hitting me." Solis attempted to flee the duplex through a window. Roubideaux and Sanchez attempted to grab Solis and pull him back into the home, but were unsuccessful. Honomichl observed that Sanchez had red marks on her face; lumps on her cheeks, forehead, and back of her head; and bruises on her knees and elbows. Roubideaux also observed that Sanchez "had marks all over her face[.]" The pair both observed that there were holes in the walls inside the residence.

         [¶8.] Sioux Falls Police Officers Skylar Mathis and Eric Olson were dispatched to Solis and Sanchez's apartment. The officers were told that Solis had fled the scene and were given his description. Solis was located shortly thereafter at a nearby gas station. When officers detained and frisked Solis, they found a blue and black knife in his right front pocket. Officer Olson asked Solis if he had any contact with Sanchez that day, but Solis responded that "he had not seen her all day." Solis was transported back to the duplex, and the officers continued to investigate the incident.

         [¶9.] Officer Mathis took pictures of Sanchez's injuries, which included bruises on her arms and forehead, and holes in the wall of the duplex. Sanchez told the officers that Solis hit her with either a closed fist or open hand 30 to 40 times, kicked her, hit her on the head with a plastic bottle, pointed a knife at her, and lunged at her with the knife. Sanchez described the knife as being blue and black. Sanchez stated that during the incident, she attempted to leave the duplex by climbing out a window and walking out the front door, but that Solis kept pulling her back inside the residence. Sanchez also claimed that she attempted to call 911, but Solis took her cell phone and threw it to the ground. Sanchez said that the holes in the wall of the duplex were caused by Solis flinging her body into the wall and pushing her head into the wall. The officers observed that one of the holes in the wall contained what appeared to be human hair.

         [¶10.] A Minnehaha grand jury indicted Solis on six counts stemming from the incident on April 23, 2017, including one count of aggravated assault by choking, one count of aggravated assault by means of a dangerous weapon, and four alternative counts of simple assault. A Minnehaha County grand jury also indicted Solis on eight different counts in a separate criminal file stemming from the incident on July 19, 2017. That indictment included charges for aggravated assault by means of a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault by physical menace, three alternative counts of simple assault, interference with an emergency communication, false imprisonment, and violation of a conditional bond. The State filed a ...


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