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State of Louisiana v. Ladarious Brown
Case Number: 53,800-KA
Judge: Jefferson Rowe Thompson
Court: COURT OF APPEAL
STATE OF LOUISIANA
Plaintiff's Attorney: JOHN F.K. BELTON, JR.
ERIC M. MAHAFFEY
Assistant District Attorney
Shreveport LA - Criminal defense attorney represented Ladarious Brown with illegal use of weapons and attempted aggravated flight from an officer charges.
On March 4, 2018, Ladarious Brown (“Brown”) was at the home of
Coreana Wilson (“Coreana”), his former girlfriend and mother of his twoyear-old daughter. Coreana lived in the home with four of her five children,
who were also in the house that day. During the visit, Brown and Coreana
became confrontational, which eventually led to the series of events
resulting in the charges filed against Brown. The events of that day,
however, were difficult to discern at the trial as Coreana was reluctant to
testify and her testimony differed from her reports to police officers on the
night of the incident and later statements she made to police officers prior to
trial. As sufficiency of the evidence is not an issue, we provide here an
overview of the events based on the entire record.
During his visit in Coreana’s residence, Brown showed those present
a handgun he had recently purchased. As the evening progressed, Brown and
Coreana began to argue and Coreana, angry with Brown, forced him to leave
her residence. Moments later she heard several gunshots a short distance
from her residence, coming from the direction Brown was traveling when he
departed. Angry, and believing Brown was responsible for the shots, 2
Coreana called the police to report hearing gunshots and identified Brown as
the likely culprit.
The police officers who responded to Coreana’s call, Detective Cade
Nolan (“Det. Nolan”) and Assistant Chief Franklin Bilberry (“Asst. Chief
Bilberry”), were advised by her that she and Brown were not in a
relationship at the time and that she had argued with Brown and kicked him
out of her house.1 Coreana further advised that she thought that the gunshots
she heard were from Brown shooting because he left her house mad and had
shown the gun to her and her cousins earlier. She told the officer the
direction in which Brown had driven, and the officers went in search of
Coreana testified that she then left her house to pick up her current
boyfriend and later returned to her home. While Coreana was gone, Brown
returned to her house and forced his way inside. After discovering Coreana
was not at home, Brown left. When Coreana did return to her house and
learned of Brown’s actions, she again called police to report Brown’s
updated possible location in connection with his return to her house. Police
officers were still in the area searching for Brown in connection with the
shots fired call when Coreana initiated her second telephone call to law
enforcement that evening. Det. Nolan and Asst. Chief Bilberry located 12
1 At trial, Coreana testified that she and Brown were still friends and “get along.”
She would not agree that she kicked Brown out of her house, instead stating that he left
because he was mad. Coreana testified that he did not threaten her or anyone with the
gun and there was no damage to her or her property. In response to Coreana’s testimony,
the state called Mike Freeman (“Freeman”), an investigator with the district attorney’s
office, who testified that he interviewed Coreana twice during the investigation. Coreana
advised him that she was angry with Brown and kicked him out of her house. Freeman
agreed that Coreana had denied to him that Brown had threatened anyone with the gun;
rather, Brown was proud of his recent purchase of the gun and showed it off to those
present at Coreana’s house. 3
spent shell casings in the middle of the street in a cul-de-sac approximately
150 yards from Coreana’s house. Det. Nolan testified that while the officers
were standing in the roadway, Brown, whom they were familiar with, drove
by them. The police officers undertook pursuit of Brown with lights and
sirens activated. Brown did not heed the efforts to stop him and traveled, not
at a high rate of speed, away from the officers, running stop signs and
crossing into the oncoming lane of travel along his way. Fortunately, a good
Samaritan truck driver observed Brown and the police units approaching
him and he used his truck and trailer to block both lanes of travel. As
Brown approached the truck, he drove off the road and came to a stop.
Brown was taken into custody without incident, and Det. Nolan testified that
Brown was cooperative and apologetic.
Brown advised officers, post-Miranda, that he and his girlfriend had
been fighting for several days and that he was at her house to check on his
Brown admitted shooting the gun, stating that he stopped at the
stop sign and shot it. Brown told Det. Nolan that he shot his gun in a “bad
vicinity” and that he was excited to shoot his new gun. The officers
searched Brown’s car and found a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun on
the dash and 2 unspent .40 caliber bullets. The clip to the handgun held 14
bullets. A firearms expert testified that the 12 spent casings found in the culde-sac were fired from the handgun seized from Brown’s vehicle and
matched the 2 unspent rounds in the magazine, also located in the vehicle.
Det. Nolan testified that he had a brief conversation with Coreana that
night prior to his departure to look for Brown. He testified that Coreana was
2 Brown’s statements were found to be admissible following a free and voluntary
hearing prior to trial.4
upset and angry and directed him to where she heard the gunfire, which she
attributed to Brown:
She just said that they had been arguing and she said that she
had been - - they had broken off their relationship, he was
physically abusive to her, according to Ms. Wilson, and said
that they had been arguing and then the - - up to that point they
had been arguing and the second time he forced his way in the
house, looking for her. And said that he did - - according to
Ms. Wilson, he did make threats once he entered the home but I
don’t know what threats those were. I believe her children were
inside the home.
Asst. Chief Bilberry testified that there had been previous domestic
abuse complaints involving Brown and Coreana and he corroborated Det.
Nolan’s testimony regarding the instant offense. The state rested its case
and the defense presented no evidence.
Brown, originally charged by bill of information with 11 separate
offenses, was subsequently charged by a second amended bill of information
with only two crimes, illegal use of weapons (La. R.S. 14:94) and
aggravated flight from an officer (La. R.S. 14:108.1).
3 After rejecting several
plea offers, Brown’s jury trial commenced on October 28, 2019. At the
conclusion of the trial, the jury unanimously convicted Brown as charged of
illegal use of weapons and of what was considered a responsive verdict of
“attempted” aggravated flight from an officer. On December 17, 2019, after
considering the presentence investigative report, the court sentenced Brown
to two years at hard labor on the illegal use of weapons conviction and two
3 Brown was initially arrested March 5, 2018, on charges of domestic abuse
aggravated assault, home invasion, illegal use of weapons, aggravated flight, criminal
trespass, driving under suspension, no insurance, expired inspection sticker, careless
operation, expired registration, terrorizing and on a bench warrant for theft of utilities.
Brown made bond, with the special condition that he not have any contact with Coreana.
The record reveals that Brown broke that condition and contacted her on numerous
occasions attempting to have her “drop the charges.” As a result, Brown’s bail was
revoked on February 22, 2019.5
and one-half years at hard labor on the attempted aggravated flight from an
officer conviction. The sentences were ordered to run consecutive to one
another. An oral motion to reconsider was denied. A timely motion for new
trial was made, but withdrawn. This appeal followed.
Brown has asserted three assignments of error, as well as raising an
error patent at oral argument. We will first address the error patent.
Error Patent: “Attempted Aggravated Flight from an Officer” is a noncrime and not a responsive verdict to the charge of Aggravated Flight
from an Officer.
Appeals courts will review only those errors designated as an
assignment of error and those errors which are “... discoverable by a mere
inspection of the pleadings and proceedings and without inspection of the
evidence.” (error patent) La. C. Cr. P. Art. 920.
Review for error patent is confined to an examination of the pleadings
and proceedings and does not include evidentiary review. State v. Oliveaux,
312 So. 2d 337 (La. 1975). The Louisiana Supreme Court has included as
reviewable the caption, the statement of time and place of the holding court,
the indictment or information and the endorsement thereon, the arraignment,
the plea of the accused, the mentioning of the impaneling of the jury, the
verdict, the judgment, the bill of particulars filed in connection with the
short form indictment or information, and, in capital cases, a minute entry
indicating that the jury has been sequestered as required by C. Cr. P. Art.
791. Oliveaux, supra.
Brown was charged, pursuant to La. R.S. 14:108.1(C), with
aggravated flight from an officer, which provides in pertinent part:
. . . .6
C. Aggravated flight from an officer is the intentional refusal of a
driver to bring a vehicle to a stop or of an operator to bring a
watercraft to a stop, under circumstances wherein human life is
endangered, knowing that he has been given a visual and
audible signal to stop by a police officer when the officer has
reasonable grounds to believe that the driver or operator has
committed an offense. The signal shall be given by an
emergency light and a siren on a vehicle marked as a police
vehicle or marked police watercraft.
D. Circumstances wherein human life is endangered shall be any
situation where the operator of the fleeing vehicle or watercraft
commits at least two of the following acts:
(1) Leaves the roadway or forces another vehicle to leave the
(2) Collides with another vehicle or watercraft.
(3) Exceeds the posted speed limit by at least twenty-five miles
(4) Travels against the flow of traffic or in the case of
watercraft, operates the watercraft in a careless manner in
violation of R.S. 34:851.4 or in a reckless manner in violation
of R.S. 14:99.
(5) Fails to obey a stop sign or a yield sign.
(6) Fails to obey a traffic control signal device.
E. (1) Whoever commits aggravated flight from an officer shall be
imprisoned at hard labor for not more than five years and may
be fined not more than two thousand dollars.
La. R.S. 14:108.1(A) also includes provisions for misdemeanor flight from
La. C. Cr. P. Art. 814 enumerates the offenses and available
responsive verdicts. La. C. Cr. P. Art. 814(A)(53), sets forth the responsive
verdicts for the charge of aggravated flight from an officer. For certain
enumerated crimes identified in La. C. Cr. P. Art 814, one possible
responsive verdict would be “attempt” of that specific crime. Pursuant to
La. R.S. 14:27, any person who, having a specific intent to commit a crime,
does or omits an act for the purpose of and tending directly toward the
accomplishing of his object is guilty of an attempt to commit the offense 7
intended; and it shall be immaterial whether, under the circumstances, he
would have actually accomplished his purpose. However, the availability of
“attempt” as a responsive verdict to a crime is limited by La. C. Cr. P. Art.
814. The judge or jury has the opportunity to return a responsive verdict of
“attempt” to a charged crime (which has the effect of a substantial
downward deviation from the maximum sentences) only for the specific
crimes for which such a designation is available pursuant to La. C. Cr. P.
As it relates to Brown and his charge of aggravated flight from an
officer, under La. C. Cr. P. Art. 814(A)(53), the only responsive verdicts
available would be either: (1) Guilty; (2) Guilty of flight from an officer; or
(3) Not guilty. There is no responsive verdict of “attempted aggravated
flight from an officer” and it is therefore a non-crime under Louisiana law.
In State v. Mayeux, 498 So. 2d 701 (La. 1986), the Louisiana Supreme
Court held that a conviction of “attempted aggravated battery” is “wholly
invalid.” In that case, the defendant was charged with two counts of
aggravated battery. At the request of defense counsel, the jury instructions
contained a charge that it could return a responsive verdict of attempted
aggravated battery, which it ultimately did on both counts. The Louisiana
Supreme Court ultimately held that, in addition to being unresponsive to the
crime charged, it also purported to convict the defendant of an offense not
designated as a crime in Louisiana. Because the court held the offense was a
non-crime, it operated as neither a conviction nor an acquittal and double
jeopardy did not attach.
Under the Louisiana Supreme Court reasoning in Mayeux, attempted
aggravated flight from an officer is a non-crime, and the trial court’s verdict 8
of guilty of attempted aggravated flight from an officer is therefore invalid.
Following Mayeux, when the trier of fact convicts on a non-existent crime,
the conviction is a nullity, and double jeopardy does not attach. We
therefore vacate Brown’s conviction and sentence imposed for attempted
aggravated flight from an officer and remand the matter to the trial court for
retrial or other proceedings, if any, which it may deem appropriate.
Having now vacated Brown’s conviction and sentence for attempted
aggravated flight from an officer, we will limit our discussion on the
asserted assignments of error to the conviction and sentence for the illegal
use of a weapon charge. The elements and discussion of the first two
assignments of error are interrelated and are therefore consolidated for
Assignments of Error Numbers One and Two: Maximum sentence is
excessive; Failure to particularize sentence to this first felony offender.
Brown was convicted by a jury of the responsive verdict of illegal use
of a weapon, and sentenced to two years at hard labor, the maximum jail
term provided in La. R.S. 14:94. Appellate counsel for Brown argues that,
as a first-felony, 24-year-old-offender, the maximum sentence imposed is
constitutionally excessive. Counsel emphasizes that there was no personal
injury or property damage, and that Brown’s criminal history includes only
three misdemeanors: a traffic violation in 2016, one count of criminal
mischief in 2013, and theft of utilities in 2017. Counsel suggests Brown
made an impulsive decision to fire his new gun, but had no intent to harm
anyone, and that while he initially fled, Brown thought better and stopped
his vehicle and politely and apologetically cooperated with police. Counsel
continues to assert that the trial court incorrectly found that Brown used 9
threats of violence in this offense and failed to address any mitigating factors
required by La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1. Brown is asserted not to be the worst of
offenders, and that the maximum sentence makes no useful contribution to
justice for this youthful, remorseful, first-offender. Counsel submits that this
Court is duty-bound to overturn this sentence as it “inflict[s] excessive
retribution on the offender.”
The state argues that the trial court adequately complied with La. C.
Cr. P. art. 894.1 and articulated its findings. The court ordered and reviewed
a presentence investigation report and addressed the applicable factors in
Article 894.1, particularizing the sentence imposed to this offender. The
state also asserts the record supports the sentence imposed on the charge of
illegal use of weapons and the sentence cannot be said to be “grossly
disproportionate” to the crime committed.
An appellate court utilizes a two-pronged test in reviewing a sentence
for excessiveness. First, the record must show that the trial court took
cognizance of the criteria set forth in La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1. The trial judge
is not required to list every aggravating or mitigating circumstance so long
as the record reflects that he adequately considered the guidelines of the
article. State v. Smith, 433 So. 2d 688 (La. 1983); State v. DeBerry, 50,501
(La. App. 2 Cir. 4/13/16), 194 So. 3d 657, writ denied, 16-0959 (La. 5/1/17),
219 So. 3d 332. The articulation of the factual basis for a sentence is the
goal of La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1, not rigid or mechanical compliance with its
provisions. Where the record clearly shows an adequate factual basis for the
sentence imposed, remand is unnecessary even where there has not been full
compliance with La. C. Cr. P. art. 894.1. State v. Lanclos, 419 So. 2d 475 10
(La. 1982); State v. DeBerry, supra. The important elements which should
be considered are the defendant’s personal history (age, family ties, marital
status, health, employment record), prior criminal record, seriousness of the
offense, and the likelihood of rehabilitation. State v. Jones, 398 So. 2d 1049
(La. 1981); State v. DeBerry, supra. There is no requirement that specific
matters be given any particular weight at sentencing. State v. DeBerry,
supra; State v. Shumaker, 41,547 (La. App. 2 Cir. 12/13/06), 945 So. 2d 277,
writ denied, 07-0144 (La. 9/28/07), 964 So. 2d 351.
The second prong requires the court to determine whether the
sentence is constitutionally excessive. A sentence violates La. Const. art. I,
§ 20, if it is grossly out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense or
nothing more than a purposeless and needless infliction of pain and
suffering. State v. Dorthey, 623 So. 2d 1276 (La. 1993); State v. Bonanno,
384 So. 2d 355 (La. 1980). A sentence is considered grossly
disproportionate if, when the crime and punishment are viewed in light of
the harm done to society, it shocks the sense of justice. State v. Weaver, 01-
0467 (La. 1/15/02), 805 So. 2d 166; State v. DeBerry, supra.
As a general rule, maximum or near maximum sentences are reserved
for the worst offenders and the worst offenses. State v. Cotten, 50,747 (La.
App. 2 Cir. 8/10/16), 201 So. 3d 299. The sentencing court has wide
discretion in imposing a sentence within statutory limits, and such a sentence
will not be set aside as excessive in the absence of manifest abuse of that
discretion. State v. Williams, 03-3514 (La. 12/13/04), 893 So. 2d 7; State v.
Duncan, 47,697 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/16/13), 109 So. 3d 921, writ denied, 13-
0324 (La. 9/13/13), 120 So. 3d 280. The trial court is in the best position to
consider the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a particular case, 11
and, therefore, is given broad discretion in sentencing. State v. Cook, 95-
2784 (La. 5/31/96), 674 So. 2d 957, cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1043, 117 S. Ct.
615, 136 L. Ed. 2d 539 (1996); State v. Jackson, supra. On review, an
appellate court does not determine whether another sentence may have been
more appropriate but whether the trial court abused its discretion. State v.
Jackson, 48,534 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/15/14), 130 So. 3d 993. General rules,
however, do not result in the same results when the factual scenarios
presented are different.
In selecting a proper sentence for a criminal defendant, a trial judge is
not limited to considering only prior convictions and may review all
evidence of prior criminal activity. State v. Monk, 42,067 (La. App. 2 Cir.
5/2/07), 956 So. 2d 185, 188; State v. Cooks, 36,613 (La. App. 2 Cir.
12/4/02), 833 So. 2d 1034. When evaluating a defendant’s criminal history,
trial courts may consider evidence at sentencing that would otherwise be
inadmissible at trial. State v. Myles, 94-0217 (La. 6/3/94), 638 So. 2d 218.
For example, the trial court may consider records of prior arrests, hearsay
evidence of suspected criminal activity, conviction records, and evidence of
uncharged offenses or offenses that were nolle prossed. State v. Anderson,
30,060 (La. App. 2 Cir. 10/29/97), 702 So. 2d 40; State v. Emerson, 31,408
(La. App. 2 Cir. 12/09/98), 722 So. 2d 373, writ denied, 99-1518 (La.
10/15/99), 748 So. 2d 470; State v. Myles, supra. The trial judge must also
take notice of the facts of each particular instance, paying particular
attention to the dangers posed, and not a strict adherence to whether such
negligent and dangerous acts were the first such occasion. The actions of
some defendants, even if the first felony prosecuted, rise to such a level as to 12
support the imposition of a legislatively designated sentence range, even
those reaching the maximum sentences.
La. R.S. 14:94, Illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities,
provides in pertinent part:
A. Illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities is the
intentional or criminally negligent discharging of any firearm,
or the throwing, placing, or other use of any article, liquid, or
substance, where it is foreseeable that it may result in death or
great bodily harm to a human being.
B. Except as provided in Subsection E, whoever commits the
crime of illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities
shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or
imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than two
years, or both.
. . . .
E. Whoever commits the crime of illegal use of weapons or
dangerous instrumentalities by discharging a firearm from a
motor vehicle located upon a public street or highway, where
the intent is to injure, harm, or frighten another human being,
shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than five nor more
than ten years without benefit of probation or suspension of
Application of law to facts:
Based on Brown’s statements to police officers, there exists the
possibility he could have been sentenced under subsection E of the statute,
which provides a harsher penalty for an offender who discharges “a firearm
from a motor vehicle located upon a public street or highway, where the
intent is to injure, harm, or frighten another human being (Coreana). . .”
Conviction under this subsection carries a penalty of five to ten years
without benefits. The trial court sentenced Brown under the general
subsection B, which carries a penalty of a fine of “not more than one
thousand dollars, or imprison[ment] with or without hard labor for not more 13
than two years, or both.” The sentencing judge was fully aware of the
circumstances surrounding this offense, including the confrontation and
discharge of a weapon numerous times in proximity to the house, and
extended a measurable benefit to Brown by sentencing him under subsection
B of the statute.
Notwithstanding those considerations, on its merits, the sentence
imposed under these facts and circumstances is not excessive. The trial
court, presented with testimony that Brown, jubilant with a new firearm
purchase, negligently discharged that weapon 12 times at a stop sign, with
an apartment complex as a backdrop, with no apparent concern for where
those bullets may find their course back to the ground. The risk of harm was
great, and it was easily foreseeable that Brown’s actions may result in great
bodily harm and even death to those in the immediate vicinity. That risk
was repeated with each successive shot fired by Brown. The sentencing
judge is permitted to take into consideration the number of dangerous and
negligent actions, pulling the trigger 12 distinct times, and launching 12
projectiles toward the residences and vehicles where others most certainly
could expect to be located, when sentencing Brown. The dangers and risks
multiplied with each shot fired. Although Brown may be considered a firsttime offender, he is a twelve-time actor in creating havoc and danger to
others with each shot.
The trial judge succinctly recited the applicable code articles. The
trial judge then expressly stated the factors of La. C. Cr. art. 894.1 that he
found applicable. The trial judge found an undue risk that Brown would
commit another offense if given a suspended or probated sentence. He
further found that Brown needed treatment in a custodial environment 14
provided by a correctional institution and that any lesser sentence would
deprecate the seriousness of the offenses. The trial judge then stated that the
“offender used threats of actual violence in the commission of this offense,”
indicating that the trial judge credited the testimony of the officers that
Coreana was threatened when Brown forced his way into her home and that
Coreana was angry and afraid and knew that Brown was armed. Finally,
citing paragraphs 10 and 19 of the article, the trial judge noted that Brown
used a dangerous weapon, the .40 caliber handgun, in the commission of the
Brown requested leniency based on the lack of injury and Coreana’s
testimony at trial. Based on the presentence investigation report and
consideration of the Article 894.1 factors, the trial judge imposed a sentence
as set forth herein. The trial judge then noted that Brown would get credit
for time served, which, according to the presentence investigation
calculation, was 479 days. Brown spoke after sentencing and asked for a
reduced sentence on the weapons conviction based on the fact that no one
was injured, to which the judge responded that there was no lesser sentence
and no probation. The sentence was ordered to be served at hard labor.
Of the many possible charges supported by Brown’s actions, he was
ultimately convicted of illegal use of weapons and was sentenced under the
more lenient subsection B, which allowed for a two-year hard labor
sentence, rather than subsection E under which he would have been exposed
to 5 to 10 years. In close proximity of time and location of a heated
domestic altercation, the defendant fired 12 rounds from a pistol from inside
his vehicle and he subsequently fled and attempted to evade police. Under
these specific facts and circumstances, this sentence is not excessive and 15
does not shock the sense of justice. We cannot, therefore, conclude the trial
court was manifestly erroneous in imposing the maximum sentence under
these specific facts and circumstances.
We find that the record supports the sentence for illegal use of
weapons as imposed and that conviction and sentence are affirmed.
Assignment of Error Number Three: No justification for consecutive
As the attempted aggravated flight from an officer conviction was
vacated and remanded, we pretermit any discussion as to the assignment of
error addressing the consecutive nature of the defendant’s sentences.
Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s conviction and sentence for
illegal use of weapons is affirmed, and the defendant’s conviction and
sentence for attempted aggravated flight from an officer is vacated and this
matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
AFFIRMED IN PART AND VACATED AND REMANDED IN PART