Court of Appeals: Div. III – Victim Turns to Defendant for Hindering Investigation
This is an unusual case in that a victim of a crime ends up being the defendant. Budik left a party with Walton who was a gang member. Walton was driving and Budik was in the passenger seat as they began to leave the party. Eyewitnesses stated that three individuals (Miller, Davis, and Nave) were standing at the passenger window of the vehicle when there were shots fired. Walton was killed and Budik was injured. Witnesses stated that Davis was the shooter and Miller transported him away from the scene. Budik said he did not know who shot him and refused to cooperate with the police. The police found a single shell casing inside the vehicle and determined that the shooter must have shot inside the vehicle and thus Budik must have been able to identify the shooter. Budik stated that he was bent over getting his drink went the shots were fired and thus didn’t see who it was.
However, two days later, Budik told Walton’s mother that Nave was the shooter. Ms. Walton related this to the police and they then charged Budik with First Degree Rendering Criminal Assistance.
"A person is guilty of rendering criminal assistance in the first degree if he . . . renders criminal assistance to a person who has committed or is being sought for murder in the first degree or any class A felony or equivalent juvenile offense." RCW 9A.76.070(1). "Rendering criminal assistance" is defined in relevant part as,
with intent to prevent, hinder, or delay the apprehension or prosecution of another person who he knows has committed a crime . . . or is being sought by law enforcement officials for the commission of a crime . . . he: . . . .(4) Prevents or obstructs, by use of force, deception, or threat, anyone from performing an act that might aid in the discovery or apprehension of such person.
Davis and Miller were charged with murder, but Nave was never charged because there was no direct evidence against him. At Budik’s trial, he stated that he never told Ms. Walton that Nave was the shooter and that he never attempted to mislead authorities or send them in the wrong direction. Detectives in the case attributed difficulties in the investigation to the general fear in the community of gang members. The jury convicted Budik as charged.
Budik appealed claiming that there was no evidence that he intended to prevent the apprehension of the assailants and there was no evidence that the officers relied on his statement or that it actually hindered the investigation. He argued that the evidence only showed that he feared retaliation and that his actions were meant to prevent that retaliation. However, the Court held that based on this motive the jury could infer that his intent was to prevent, hinder, or delay the apprehension and prosecution of the murderers. In addition there is nothing in the statute that requires that the police rely upon the deception. A detective testified that Budik’s testimony would have been key as to Nave’s involvement in the shooting.
Budik then argued that he had a constitutional right to not answer police questions. However, the right to remain silent is a right to not self incriminate. Budik was not a suspect; he was a witness. In addition, Budik was prosecuted for lying, not remaining silent.
Budik made one last argument that he had ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney did not submit a jury instruction for duress. However, Budik’s argument at trial was not that he was under duress and that was why he refused to cooperate. His argument was that he simply didn’t know who the shooter was. Thus the ineffective assistance of counsel argument failed as well.
So the victim of a shooting goes off to jail. But I’m hoping I will never know the kind of fear that some communities have of cooperating with the police and pointing out criminals. It must be a very lost feeling.