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State v. Helm

Supreme Court of Montana

January 29, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
DANIEL DEAN HELM, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 12, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and For the County of Lewis and Clark, Cause No. DDC 16-276 Honorable James P. Reynolds, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Samir F. Aarab, Boland Aarab PLLP, Great Falls, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy K Plubell, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Leo John Gallagher, Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Fallon Stanton, Deputy County Attorney, Helena, Montana


         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 A Lewis and Clark County jury found Daniel Dean Helm guilty of two counts of Partner or Family Member Assault ("PFMA"), arising from an incident with his estranged wife and son on June 26, 2016. Helm appeals one of the convictions, arguing that he was entitled to dismissal on one count because the State presented insufficient evidence that his wife reasonably apprehended bodily injury. We affirm.

         ¶3 Helm and his wife of many years, Misty Helm ("Misty"), were separated and lived in separate trailers in the Wagon Wheel Trailer Court. The couple had three children together, including Alan Helm ("Alan"). At the time, sixteen-year-old Alan lived with Misty.

         ¶4 On June 26, 2016, three neighbors called the police to respond to a fight at the trailer Misty shared with Alan. When officers arrived, the fight had broken up, and several neighbors were standing outside with Misty and Alan. Officers took statements from Misty, Alan, and other people at the scene about a physical fight between Helm and Alan. An officer took photographs of Alan's injuries. The officers were unable to locate Helm that night and obtained an arrest warrant. An officer arrested Helm four days later.

         ¶5 The State charged Helm with one count of PFMA under § 45-5-206(1)(c), MCA, for purposely or knowingly causing reasonable apprehension of bodily injury in Misty and a second count of PFMA under § 45-5-206(1)(a), MCA, for purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to Alan. Neither Misty nor Alan could be located to testify at trial.

         ¶6 Trial on the two charges took place on June 13 and 14, 2017. The State called four witnesses. First to testify was Corday Boone. Boone was fourteen years old at the time of the altercation and was a friend of Alan. Boone testified that he was in Misty's trailer that night to help Alan pack up his belongings because Alan was moving. According to Boone, Helm arrived later and began arguing with Misty about a phone charger. Helm was angry and yelling. Boone knew there would be a "big argument" and thought that Helm "would be aggressive toward[]" Misty based on his demeanor. Boone did not remember whether Helm made any physical contact with Misty, but endorsed his statement to police the night of the incident that Helm grabbed Misty by the arm. Boone stated that he thought Misty might get hurt and that Misty is very petite and much smaller than Helm. According to Boone's testimony, Alan stepped between his parents to prevent Helm from hurting Misty and to get Helm to leave. Boone testified that Helm was the initial aggressor and that Helm punched Alan in the face when Alan intervened. Boone stated that, after getting punched, Alan wrestled Helm out of the trailer, breaking the partially broken door the rest of the way off its hinges. Boone explained that Helm left after the fight moved outside when some neighbors told him to leave.

         ¶7 The State next called Henry Taylor. Taylor lived in a nearby trailer. He reported that on June 26, 2016, he heard noise coming from outside. He told a family member to call the police and went outside to see what was going on. When he got outside, he saw Helm and Alan wrestling on the front porch of Misty's trailer. He testified that it looked like Helm was on top and hitting Alan. He reported that he pulled Helm and Alan apart, telling Helm to take a walk and Alan to go wait for the police in Taylor's trailer. Taylor reported that Misty then came running out of the trailer yelling, "You hit my son," and Helm went toward Misty. Taylor said he told Misty to go to his trailer as well, and Helm left.

         ¶8 Officer Don Skidmore testified third. Officer Skidmore responded to the trailer court on June 26, 2016, in response to a call that there was a physical altercation occurring. Before arriving on the scene, officers received a tip that the altercation was over and a male was walking away from the scene. Officer Skidmore testified that several individuals were outside when he arrived at Misty's trailer. He took statements from Misty, Alan, Boone, and Taylor. Officer Skidmore testified that Alan was not wearing a shirt when he arrived on the scene and that he could see visible injuries on Alan, including dried blood on his lower lip, a bump on his forehead, a bruise on the left side of his face, some redness and abrasions on his upper torso, and abrasions on his right forearm. Officer Skidmore laid the foundation for eight photographs of Alan's injuries the police took the night of the altercation, and the District Court admitted the photographs into evidence. Officer Skidmore testified that Boone seemed dumbfounded and in shock. Officer Skidmore testified that Misty "seemed a little reluctant to speak with me at first. There ...

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