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Name: People v. Redd
Case #: F065225
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/28/2014
Summary

There was insufficient evidence to support defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to pervert or obstruct justice (Pen. Code, § 182, subd. (a)(5)) based on attempting to bring tobacco into state prison. Based on an anonymous tip, prison officials stopped a cook, Cornil, as he was entering the prison and found cellophane-wrapped bindles that contained cell phones and tobacco. When questioned, Cornil said the items were for an inmate, Redd. A jury found Redd guilty of conspiracy to commit the crime of communicating with a prisoner without permission (Pen. Code, §§ 182, subd. (a)(1), 4570) and conspiracy to pervert or obstruct justice. On appeal, Redd challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions. Held: Reversed in part. Under section 182, subdivision (a)(5), it is a crime for two or more people to conspire to commit any act “to pervert or obstruct justice, or the due administration of the laws.” The meaning of this language is determined by reference either to the common law or to the more specific “Crimes Against Public Justice,” found in part I, title 7 of the Penal Code. Although conduct that perverts or obstructs justice is not necessarily limited to crimes listed in this part of the Penal Code, it is incumbent upon the People to explain why specific allegations constitute a violation of section 182, subdivision (a)(5) because the statute has been given a limited interpretation based on due process considerations. Here, the alleged conspiracy to bring tobacco into state prison does not violate a statute found in part I, title 7 of the Penal Code, and there was no claim that the allegations would have been a crime under common law. The Attorney General did not demonstrate how the alleged conspiracy constituted a perversion or obstruction of justice, or the due administration of laws. It was not enough to show the object of the conspiracy was unlawful.

Sufficient evidence supported defendant’s conviction for conspiring to commit the crime of communicating with a prisoner without permission. Section 4570 prohibits unauthorized communication with any prisoner, including bringing any letter, writing, literature, or reading matter to a prisoner without the warden’s permission. Here, there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that Redd intended one or more of the cell phones to be used for unauthorized communication with any prisoner. One of the cell phones Cornil intended to deliver to Redd contained movies, financial documents, and photographs of another inmate housed in Redd’s housing unit. The jury could reasonably deduce that Redd intended to deliver the cell phone to the inmate, which would be a violation of section 4570 because the phone itself contained “writing” and “reading matter” in the form of financial documents. The jury could also infer that Redd intended to use at least one of the cell phones for unauthorized communication because two micro SD cards associated with a cell phone number and an e-mail address were found in Redd’s belongings. There was sufficient evidence of a conspiracy because Cornil’s guilty plea to conspiracy to communicate with any prisoner provided evidence that Cornil intended the cell phones to be used for unauthorized communication with any inmate.