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Bens v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

January 15, 2020

ANTHONY BENS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 27CR-18-7. HONORABLE CHRIS E WILLIAMS, JUDGE.

         COUNSEL:

          Tara Ann Schmutzler, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Michael L. Yarbrough, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

           BART F. VIRDEN, Judge. GLADWIN and VAUGHT, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 496

          BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

          A Grant County jury found appellant Anthony Bens guilty of possession of a firearm by certain persons (felon) and tampering

Page 497

with evidence. The jury sentenced Bens as a habitual offender to seven years' imprisonment, and he was fined $300 for the misdemeanor offense of tampering with evidence. Bens challenges only the possession-of-a-firearm conviction and argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. We affirm.[1]

          I. Trial Testimony

          The following is a summary of the testimony at trial. On December 21, 2017, law enforcement officers responded to a report of two males fighting in the street. When the officers arrived at the scene, two men were in the street and began walking toward a vehicle parked at the entrance to an apartment complex. Deputy David Ponder with the Grant County Sheriff's Department testified that, when he arrived at the scene with his blue lights on, Bens had " [given him] a wave" and had gotten into his vehicle. Deputy Ponder ordered him to get out of the vehicle, but Bens did not comply until after the second command. Officer Danny Clark with the Sheridan Police Department, looking through the open window on the passenger's side of the car, noticed a " blunt" on the console. Corporal Tommy Holcomb with the Grant County Sheriff's Department confirmed that it was a marijuana " blunt," but he also saw an open gun case on the passenger's seat. There was a loaded magazine in the gun case, but there was no gun. When Corporal Holcomb asked Bens about the blunt, Bens ran around to the driver's side of the car. With the officers yelling at him not to get in the car, and even drawing their weapons, Bens opened the driver's-side door, grabbed the blunt, and ate it. Corporal Holcomb then saw part of a handgun under the driver's seat.[2] Bens was arrested, and Corporal Holcomb secured the firearm— a .40-caliber Glock— which was loaded with a full magazine and a cartridge in the chamber. A video of the incident was played for the jury. Defense counsel moved for a directed verdict, and the trial court denied it as to the felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charge.

          Catherine Winfrey, Bens's mother, testified that the title to the vehicle in which the firearm was found is in her name but that Letitia Cranford, Bens's fiancee, is the one who primarily drives the car. Cranford testified that she had asked Bens to take her to work that day because it was foggy. She said that she had bought the firearm for protection and kept it under the driver's seat. She said that she typically puts the gun back into its case and takes the case inside her house but that she had forgotten to do that the night before Bens was stopped by police because she had gotten home so late. Bens testified ...


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