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People v. Uecker

March 24, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
DANNY GREG UECKER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Shasta County, Stephen H. Baker, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 07F1278).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

A jury found defendant Danny Greg Uecker guilty of stalking two women. The trial court found he had four strike priors and sentenced him to 50 years to life in prison.

Defendant appeals, raising the following five contentions:

(1) there was insufficient evidence to support both stalking convictions; (2) the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting certain evidence of defendant's prior bad acts; (3) the court prejudicially erred in admitting evidence defendant was a registered sex offender; (4) the court erred in refusing to dismiss some or all of his strike priors; and (5) defendant's sentence is cruel and/or unusual punishment. Disagreeing with these contentions, we affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. Count 1 -- Stalking Of M.

M. is a service representative at the Social Security Administration in Shasta County. Her first encounter with defendant was at her work parking lot around the end of May or beginning of June 2006 when she noticed him sitting by her white Mustang between noon and 1:00 p.m. Defendant was on his bicycle, parked three to four feet from her car. M. commented that bicycling was good exercise. Thereafter, defendant would be beside M.'s car every day when she would go to lunch, even when her lunch hour varied. They would exchange greetings, and defendant sometimes would try to engage M. in further conversation. On occasion M. would oblige, but she always would say she had to get back to work because she was running late. She was polite to defendant because her job taught her to treat human beings with kindness and respond to their conversation. This pattern continued week after week, month after month.

About the same time defendant starting hanging around M.'s car, he started leaving notes for her on her car. The first note included his telephone number and read as follows: "'If you want to go riding bicycles, give me a call.'" M. ripped up the note and threw it away because she "wasn't interested."

In September, M. started parking on the street because she no longer needed the shade the original parking spot provided and somebody else had started parking in her spot. Defendant approached her at her new spot and asked whether she was trying to "'get away from [him].'" She said "'[n]o.'" He continued showing up at her new parking spot, leaving her notes and trying to engage her in conversation. One of these notes read as follows: "'I'm not a homeless guy. I have a job. I have a roof over my head. I want to go out with you.'" She threw it away and did not talk to him about the note. His behavior was beginning to concern M., and she decided she needed to "prepare for stuff" "if he got crazy or something." She bought mace and started taking "evasive" actions by moving her car.

But defendant persisted. His next note was a Christmas card that read as follows: "[M.], [¶] I hope you have a nice holiday season! I know how we met is a little rare, and I look like a transient on the side of the road but I can assure you I do have a full time job and a roof over my head. [Smiley face.] Listen, no strings attached, if ever you want to call sometime just to talk, I'm open for it, if you haven't lost my number? Its [sic] really nice talking to you as an attractive, mature lady! I'm not looking for anything super serious but I wouldn't mind the companionship on a cold, rainy day, sipping hot chocolate. [Smiley face.] [¶] Danny [¶] P.S. Nice car. [Smiley face.] I like it better than the Mustang." (Capitalization omitted.)

M., who had bought a Toyota Camry a week before, was concerned and terrified defendant knew her every move. She went inside her workplace and talked with the administrative secretary for management, Nancy Patterson, and told her the following: "'Something's not right. This man just doesn't go away. And I don't know what to do anymore. I thought I could handle it on my own.'" M. had now become so fearful of defendant she stopped going out in the evenings and shopping and had her girlfriend stay with her a few times.

The next day, M. was so scared she parked in another location that was 10 feet from her work's exit. As she was walking out of work, defendant approached her on his bicycle and asked if she got his Christmas card. She thanked him but "[f]irm[ly]" said she was "not interested" because she was "seeing someone" and asked whether his statement about her being a mature woman implied she was old. Defendant said "no," "got mad," and asked why she had been flirting with him. She said she had not been and was simply responding to his conversation. She then announced she had to go pick up her son, and defendant left.

The following day, M. took a much later than normal lunch because her son was very ill. She did not see defendant but received the following note: "[M.], [¶] I'm not on my bike anymore. The weather is too cold, wet or unpredictable. [¶] I'm in a small brown truck w/ a camper shell. I still spend my lunch hour here because its [sic] quiet. I don't like to keep leaving notes on your car. Would much rather talk to you. [Smiley face.] [¶] Ok so you're not mature! You're an immature trouble making brat! Now what? [Smiley face.] [¶] What's a guy gotta do to get a call from a beautiful woman? I'll be here tomorrow if you want to see me. You sure have some funny lunch hours. [Smiley face.] [¶] Dan."

When M. read this note, she "really freaked out." She "started to realize that this is more than just someone interested in dating, that this guy is just watching [her] every move." She "started parking way down the road" so defendant would not be able to see her car, had people walk her to her car, and alerted the guard at her workplace. As with the last note, M. gave it to Patterson. M. did not call the police herself because office protocol required her to go through management.

Patterson spoke to her manager, Linde Ballentine, about the situation, and Ballentine called M. into her office. M. told Ballentine defendant had been leaving notes on her car, "he was now scaring her with some of the things in the notes, [and] that she didn't know how to interpret them." M. was crying on and off, was shaky, and had to sit down several times.

The following day, December 19, Ballentine saw defendant in his truck eating lunch. He was positioned "with a good view of the entry to the parking lot where the cars come in" and of the "employee entrance." Management then contacted law enforcement.

B. Count 2 -- Stalking Of J.

J. is a part-time real estate agent in Shasta County who began her career in November 2006. To generate business, she posted real estate advertisements with her photograph and phone number in local newspapers and magazines.

At the end of November or early December 2006, J. received a phone message from "Danny" saying he was looking for a "livable shack in the boonies for less than 60,000 dollars." J. returned his call, and when she had found a couple of houses that might work, she asked for his last name so she could mail the information to him. Defendant said it was "Eucker."

Defendant then began calling J. a couple of times a day both on her cellular phone and her office line. She thought his messages were "a little too comfortable and playful." He joked about his friends coming over and "rid[ing her] horses" after she mentioned she liked the country and had horses. He told her she had a "really cool voice" and he could "'[p]robably talk to [her] all day.'" That message left her with a "haunting and violating feeling." In reference to a listing of property she had found him in "[n]ot the greatest area," he asked if she ever went to check the places out and hinted she should take him there. She had no intention of doing so because she "wanted to make sure [she] was coming back." She pressed him for information to help him qualify for a loan, but he never provided any and simply wanted more listings.

During the second week of phone calls, defendant left a message stating he had something to tell J. He then laughed and said, "'Oh, no, never mind. If you're curious enough, you'll call back.'" When J. did not call back, defendant called her a couple of days later and asked if she had received his message. When she said she had, defendant asked her, "'Do you like surprises?'" J. responded that she was "'[n]ot particularly fond of them.'"

By now, J. was questioning defendant's credibility. He had said a friend had referred him to her, which she knew was a lie because defendant was her first client. J. decided to check Megan's Law database to see if defendant was listed. When she tried Danny "Eucker" nothing came up. When she tried Danny "Uecker" she saw defendant's picture with his residence address listed as a hotel. J. drove by the hotel several times to look at the trucks parked there, since defendant had told her he drove a truck. She "wanted to get a visual of every truck in there, so in case he pulled up behind [her, she] would know" and "wouldn't get caught off guard."

At some point after she learned defendant was a "sex offender," defendant left a message for her saying he wanted to come by the office. J. responded by parking her car "far out in the parking lot backwards, so it wouldn't look like a real estate car," putting her hair in a knot, wearing sweats, and "frump[ing] on in." She asked co-workers to let her know if anybody came to the door looking for her.

A couple of days after their last phone contact, defendant left the following "irate" message: "'I guess that's what you realtors do, you just drop us.'" J. responded with the following message: "'I'm a little offended that, you know, you would speak to me that way because I had been trying to help. Every step of the way. And didn't really appreciate that.'" She falsely told him she was quitting the residential real estate business to focus on commercial real estate and she would send him to someone who could help him. Thereafter, J. decided not to host open houses and asked her manager whether she could put someone else's photograph in the advertisements.

Defendant called J. back about three times after her last message. The first two messages were lengthy and extremely apologetic. In one, defendant said the following: "'I started this with you, [J.], because you didn't treat me like everybody else -- some other realtors. So, with all due respect, I'd like to finish this with you. But I want to handle this with you --I want you to handle this or at least handle my issues, anyway.'" The message scared her. In another, defendant said the following: "'I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you like that. I had some words with a buddy at work. It wasn't your fault, but I want you to finish what you've started here with me. I know you're doing the commercial thing, but I want you to finish what you started with me.'" J.'s reaction to the second message was, "this guy is like talking to a girlfriend or something . . . [i]t . . . just . . . didn't s[i]t well, either." The third said, "'Hey, I just want, you know, out of dodge and by now, you probably know why.'"

J. reported defendant's conduct to law enforcement on December 13, 2006. She was afraid of defendant and felt trapped by him.

In all, defendant called her about 30 times over a three-week period, and of those calls, 6 to 10 ...


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