Tuesday, March 24, 2009

People v. Uecker (Cal. Ct. App. - March 24, 2009)

Some guys are creepy. Very. And unacceptably so. That's something that's clearly true, and I want to make that crystal clear.

So with that understanding, let's run with the concept and see how far it goes. Here are the acts of a person I'll call "Danny Uecker". Tell me what you think the appropriate punishment should be. (Sorry the facts are so long, but I want to give you the complete details about what Danny did before you make a judgment):

(1) M encounters Danny in a parking lot near her work, as Danny is on his bicycle parked three or four feet from M's car. M. commented that bicycling was good exercise. Thereafter, Danny would be beside M.’s car every day when she would go to lunch. They would exchange greetings, and Danny 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. M. was basically being polite. This pattern continued week after week, month after month. Danny also started leaving notes on M's car. The first note included Danny's telephone number and read: “‘If you want to go riding bicycles, give me a call.’” M. wasn't interested and ripped it up. A couple months later, M. started parking on the street, but Danny kept stopping by, and asked whether she was trying to “‘get away from [him],” and she said “‘[n]o.’” Danny continued showing up at her new parking spot, leaving her notes and trying to engage her in conversation. One of these notes read: “‘I’m not a homeless guy. I have a job. I have a roof over my head. I want to go out with you.’” M. threw the note away and did not talk to him about it. Danny's 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 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.” The next day, Danny asked if M. 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. Danny 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 Danny left. The next day, Danny left 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 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.”

(2) J. was a real estate agent and received a a phone message from Danny saying he was looking for a
“livable shack in the boonies for less than 60,000 dollars.” Defendant then began calling J. a couple of times a day both on her cell phone and her office line. J. thought Danny's messages were “a little too comfortable and playful.” Danny joked about his friends coming over and “rid[ing her] horses” after she mentioned she liked the country and had horses, and Danny told J. she had a “really cool voice” and he could “‘[p]robably talk to [her] all day.’” During the second week of phone calls, Danny 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, Danny called her a couple of days later and asked if she had received his message. When she said she had, Danny asked her, “‘Do you like surprises?’” J. responded that she was “‘[n]ot particularly fond of them.’” Danny thereafter left a message for J. saying he wanted to come by the office, but J. (for entirely good reasons)didn't respond to it. A couple of days later, Danny 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.’” J. told Danny she was quitting the residential real estate market. Danny called J. back about three times after her last message. The first two messages were lengthy and extremely apologetic. In one, Danny said: “‘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.’” In another, Danny said: “‘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.’” The third said, “‘Hey, I just want, you know, out of dodge and by now, you probably know why.’” In all, Danny called her about 30 times over a three-week period, and of those calls, 6 to 10 were direct

Okay. There you have it. A creep, and doing stuff that's clearly impermissible. Things that legitimately freak out the recipients of the unwanted calls and visits. What's the appropriate sentence?

Forty years. For stalking. Which includes the element, in both cases, of "making a credible threat" against the victim.

The Court of Appeal affirms, holding both that the acts described above statisfied the "credible threat" requirement as well as that the forty year sentence does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Needless to say, Danny's not a nice guy. That said, what do you think about the result here? Justice? Rough or otherwise?