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State v. Fuller

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

January 4, 2019

The State, Respondent,
v.
Michael Antwon Fuller, Appellant. Appellate No. 2016-000672

          Submitted September 6, 2018

          Appeal From Aiken County G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, Jr., both of Columbia; and Solicitor James Strom Thurmond, Jr., of Aiken, for Respondent.

          SHORT, J.

         Michael Antwon Fuller appeals his convictions on charges of kidnapping, unlawful carrying of a pistol, possession of a stolen pistol, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, arguing the trial court erred in preventing him from cross-examining his accuser (the victim) about her prior convictions for driving under the influence (DUI). Fuller also appeals the trial court's directive that his name be placed on the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry (the registry) even though the same jury acquitted him on charges of first- degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) and first-degree assault and battery. We affirm.[1]

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In December 2013, the victim travelled from Florida to Aiken, where her brother was having surgery. The surgery went well, and the victim and her family went to the bar of the hotel where she was staying to celebrate. The victim admitted she had three alcoholic drinks during the celebration.

         Later, the victim went to a convenience store, where she bought cigarettes and a four-pack of mini wine bottles. When she returned to the parking lot of the hotel, she remained in her car to smoke. Fuller approached her car to request a cigarette, and the two began talking. When the victim mentioned she was in town because of her brother's surgery, Fuller asked her to drive him to the hospital so he could visit an uncle who was a patient. Feeling she could trust him, the victim agreed to give Fuller a ride.

         As they approached the hospital in the victim's car, Fuller directed the victim to pass both of the two entrances to the campus. The victim continued to drive, but soon realized there was no other entrance. As she turned to Fuller to tell him this, she felt a pistol in her cheek. Fuller then told the victim to "start driving" and hit the back of her head with the pistol. The victim became frantic and offered Fuller both her car and her money if he would let her go. Instead, however, Fuller hit the victim's head again, told her to "shut up and keep driving," and threatened to kill her. The victim started driving again, pushed on the accelerator as hard as she could, opened the door, and flung herself from the moving vehicle. She took off running, but Fuller managed to stop the car and get out. The two struggled, and Fuller demanded the victim perform oral sex on him. Instead of complying, the victim kept "spitting out" and crying. Fuller began unbuttoning the victim's pants, and the victim promised to withdraw money from an ATM to give him if he did not rape her. Fuller, apparently agreeing to the suggestion, dragged the victim back to her car and told her to drive. As they were proceeding, Fuller said he wanted to go to a friend's house first. Instead, the victim put her vehicle into reverse and continually sounded the horn while she drove backwards. Fuller told the victim to stop and drive forward, hit the back of her neck repeatedly, and again threatened to kill her. In an attempt to take control of the steering wheel, Fuller crawled onto the victim's lap. The victim hit the accelerator as hard as she could, causing the car to crash and come to a stop.

         After the crash, the victim noticed Fuller was draped across her body and alive but unconscious. She extricated herself and exited her car through a window. She attempted to walk to the hospital, but resorted to crawling because of her injuries. When her injuries made further movement impossible, she hid in some bushes until she saw a vehicle approach.

         The approaching vehicle was operated by Betty Corley, an employee of the Aiken Council on Aging who was responsible for driving patients to appointments and dialysis treatments. Corley was on duty; however, she had no patients in her vehicle when she encountered the victim, so she drove the victim to the hospital. Corley did not see anything indicating the victim was intoxicated; however, she noticed the victim's arm and head were bleeding. The emergency room nurse who attended to the victim also observed lacerations on the back of the victim's head and abrasions on her hands and forearm area.

         Master Corporal John Christopher Medlin, a uniform patrol officer with the Aiken Department of Public Safety, received a radio dispatch alerting him to the collision. The dispatch also advised of the possibility that a man with a gun was inside the wrecked vehicle. Master Corporal Medlin responded to the scene and noticed a dark SUV sitting sideways with fluids leaking from it. Using his flashlight to survey the scene, Master Corporal Medlin saw Fuller, who was apparently unconscious. Other officers arrived. Fuller, who apparently regained consciousness when lights were shone into the vehicle, was ordered to show his hands and get out of the car. Fuller exited the car unassisted by climbing from the back seat over the driver's seat, which appeared to have been broken. His pants were below his waistline, and his boxer shorts were visible. After he was placed into a patrol car, officers confiscated his pistol from the victim's vehicle.

         During the drive to the police station, Fuller received Miranda[2] warnings even though he was not under arrest. Fuller gave the police several conflicting versions about why he was in the victim's car.

         A detective administered Miranda warnings a second time when Fuller arrived at the police station. During a second interview, Fuller told the detective he came to the hotel to meet a woman who never showed up, so he struck up a conversation with the victim, who agreed to drive him home. Fuller further claimed he passed out in the victim's car during the drive and claimed the gun found in the car belonged to a friend who "happened to leave it right there with [Fuller] so [he] kept it right there in [his] pocket." Fuller denied he assaulted the victim or pulled the gun on her. He also accused the victim of being "basically drunk herself." At the detective's request, Fuller agreed to provide a DNA sample. When the detective informed Fuller he would be charged with kidnapping, Fuller asked the police to "talk to [the victim] when she's sober."

         The victim told emergency room personnel she had been drinking before the accident. Furthermore, although she denied drinking any of the wine she purchased at the convenience store that night, police found only one of the mini bottles at the site of the wreck. A blood sample taken about four hours after the victim was admitted to the hospital showed her blood alcohol level was 0.065. None of the officers who interviewed Fuller or the victim believed either individual was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, a ...


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