Nov. 7, 2016 – A man convicted for attempted burglary – and suspected but not convicted for prior break-ins at the same home – must pay the victim for the security system she installed to stop the burglaries, an appeals court has ruled.
In August 2014, Thomas Queever tried to burglarize the home of an 86-year-old woman, who had installed a security system to combat repeated burglaries in the months prior to Queever’s attempt. Someone had been unlawfully entering the victim’s home through unlocked doors and windows and taking money from her purse.
The victim’s son installed a hidden video camera when the family began to suspect that someone was entering the victim’s home at night.
On one occasion, footage revealed that someone entered the home through a sliding glass door. Police then installed a second video camera in the home. On a second occasion, the footage revealed that someone gained entry through an unlocked window.
But police could not identify the suspect. The victim paid to install a security system, with an alarm and quality video camera. Through this system, police identified Queever as the person who attempted to burglarize the victim on a night in August 2014.
Ultimately, Queever pleaded no contest to one count of attempted burglary. The state had charged him as a repeater but dropped the repeater status under the agreement.
Before sentencing, the victim requested restitution for the amount she paid to have the security system installed. Queever objected. He argued that the victim purchased the system before he committed the conduct that resulted in his conviction.
That is, Queever argued that he had nothing to do with the previous burglaries and was not convicted for those crimes, so he should not be held to pay for the security system.
The circuit court rejected Queever’s argument, finding that he broke into the victim’s home multiple times before being caught for the attempted burglary at issue. The circuit court ordered restitution for $2,744, plus a restitution surcharge of about $250.
In State v. Queever, 2015AP2320 (Oct. 21, 2016), the District III Court of Appeals affirmed, finding a “causal nexus” between the victim’s damage and Queever’s crime.
“Queever argues the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion in this case by determining there was a causal nexus between the crime considered at sentencing and the cost the victim incurred to install a home security system,” wrote Judge Lisa Stark.
“We disagree. During the sentencing hearing, the circuit court made two factual findings in support of its determination that the requisite causal nexus existed. Neither of those findings is clearly erroneous.”
The circuit court found that Queever committed burglaries prior to the attempted burglary, based on videos and photos of prior break-ins depicting a man who looked like him. For instance, the prior burglaries were committed by someone with a mullet haircut and a baseball cap. Queever donned a mullet and a baseball cap during the attempted break-in for which he was convicted, and had the same build as the previous burglar.
The state conceded that it could not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Queever committed the prior burglaries. But the circuit court found that he did, by a preponderance of the evidence. And that was good enough for restitution.
“On this record, the circuit court could reasonably find that Queever was responsible for the prior burglaries of the victim’s home,” Judge Stark wrote. “Second, the circuit court concluded the prior burglaries caused the victim to purchase the home security system.”
Queever argued that the sentencing court, in determining restitution, can only consider the crime for which a defendant is being sentenced, in this case an attempted burglary that was committed after the victim installed the security system.
But the panel rejected that argument, noting that sentencing courts may consider a person’s entire course of conduct. “On these facts, we conclude the prior burglaries and the attempted burglary were part of a single course of criminal conduct,” Stark wrote.