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People v. Moore

August 11, 2009


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Patricia Titus, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA302824).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bigelow, J.*fn5


The People filed an information charging Kyron J. Moore with one count of grand theft and 10 counts of perjury by declaration. Moore joined a co-defendant‟s motion to dismiss all counts based on the statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, following which Moore pled no contest to the one grand theft count. On appeal, Moore challenges the trial court‟s ruling on the statute of limitations. We affirm.


During the early 2000s, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) contracted with Crystal Stairs, a nonprofit child development agency, to help the department (along with other agencies) distribute funds to child care providers. In accord with the terms of their contract, Crystal Stairs received funds from DPSS, and then distributed those funds to child care providers in accord with directives from DPSS. Between October 1, 2000, and March 31, 2002, Michelle Davis, Moore‟s brother, regularly applied to Crystal Stairs under penalty of perjury for child care funds, falsely reporting that Moore was caring for Davis‟s four children. Crystal Stairs, in turn, disbursed $44,026 to Moore, and he and Davis split the money. During this same time frame, the Long Beach YMCA actually provided care for Davis‟s children.

On May 8, 2002, a child care coordinator at the YMCA mailed a letter to Crystal Stairs, along with supporting documentation, showing that Davis‟s children had been receiving child care at the YMCA.*fn1 Crystal Stairs received the YMCA‟s letter on May 10, 2002. On May 28, 2002, a fraud prevention specialist at Crystal Stairs referred the matter to DPSS for investigation, because DPSS was "the only one that [could] conduct an investigation."

On May 17, 2006, the People filed a criminal complaint against Davis and Moore. On January 23, 2007, the People filed an information jointly charging Davis and Moore with one count of grand theft of personal property, "to wit $44,026... in child care funds the property of Crystal Stairs," which was alleged to have occurred "[o]n or between October 1, 2000 and March 31, 2002." The information also charged Davis with 11 counts of perjury by declaration, and charged Moore with 10 counts of perjury by declaration (some counts overlapped), all identified by reference to specific dates in 2001 and 2002.

On June 28, 2007, Davis filed a written motion to dismiss all charges against her. Davis‟s motion to dismiss argued that all of the charges against her were barred by the four-year statute of limitations prescribed by Penal Code section 801.5 because Crystal Stairs became "aware of [her] violation on or before May 8, 2002," but the complaint was not filed until May 17, 2006, "more than [four] years after the violation was discovered by Crystal Stairs...." Moore ---- represented by separate counsel ---- "joined" Davis‟s motion to dismiss. The People filed written opposition, arguing that the State of California Child Care Fund Program, not Crystal Stairs, was the ""personally aggrieved‟" victim of the defendants‟ crimes, and that DPSS, the local governmental agency responsible for administering the state‟s program, had not discovered the criminal wrongdoing until May 28, 2002.

On November 29, 2007, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court denied the motion for the following reason: "I understand what the defense position is, but I don‟t... think that [Crystal Stairs] acts as an arm of DPSS, and by the proof, [the] date of notification [to DPSS was] made on May 28, 2002."

On January 9, 2008, Moore waived his constitutional trial rights, and pled no contest to one count of grand theft. On the same day, in accord with his plea agreement, the trial court suspended imposition of sentence, and placed Moore on formal probation for five years, including 78 days of Caltrans work. The trial court dismissed the 10 perjury counts.


Moore‟s sole contention on appeal is that the trial court violated his federal due process rights by wrongly analyzing the statute of limitations issue.*fn2 We disagree.

Penal Code section 801.5 provides that prosecution of certain offenses, including grand theft, fraud and perjury, "shall be commenced within four years after discovery of the commission of the offenses...."*fn3 Section 803, subdivision (c), provides that the four-year statute of limitations "does not commence to run until the discovery of [the] offense...." (Italics added.) The Penal Code does not specifically identify whose discovery triggers the running of the statutes of limitations, but case law holds that the limitations period begins running on the date either the "victim" or a responsible "law enforcement official" learn of facts which, if investigated with reasonable diligence, would make that person aware a crime had occurred. (People v. Kronemyer (1987) 189 Cal.App.3d 314, 330-331 (Kronemyer); People v. Lopez (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 233, 246 (Lopez).)

For purposes of determining whether a particular person‟s discovery of facts will be deemed to trigger the running of the statute of limitations, a "victim" does not include a person with a "special relationship" to the actual victim of the defendant‟s crime, nor does a "victim" include a person with a "special interest" in the subject matter of the crime. (See, e.g., Kronemyer, supra, 189 Cal.App.3d at pp. 330-335 [discovery of facts by close friend and neighbor of conservatee-victim, and/or by residual beneficiary of conservatee-victim‟s estate, did not trigger the statute of limitation].) In short, the criminal discovery statutes "extend no further than those persons who are direct victims [of a crime]... ...

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