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State v. Holcomb

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

April 17, 2019

The State, Respondent,
v.
Dean Alton Holcomb, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2016-001927

          Heard March 14, 2019

          Appeal From Greenville County John C. Hayes, III, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender Kathrine Haggard Hudgins, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General John Benjamin Aplin, all of Columbia; Solicitor Barry Joe Barnette and Assistant Solicitor Russell D. Ghent, both of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

          KONDUROS, J.

         In this criminal case, Dean Alton Holcomb appeals his convictions for breach of trust and obtaining money by false pretenses, arguing the trial court erred in (1) failing to direct a verdict of acquittal due to the State's failure to prove a written check constitutes a trust relationship; (2) failing to direct a verdict of acquittal due to the State's failure to prove Holcomb made a fraudulent misrepresentation; and (3) refusing to grant a mistrial based on remarks made by the prosecution. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Robert McGinn, Jr., lived in a house with his family in Greenville County for almost twenty years. A hail storm damaged the home around March or April of 2012. The damage to the house amounted to $7, 180.99. McGinn's insurer, State Farm Insurance Company, initially paid $4, 295.03. McGinn remained eligible for up to an additional $1, 885.96 if the repairs necessitated it.

         McGinn entered into a contract with Holcomb, the owner of Carolina Home Renovators, on May 25, 2012, to replace the roof of the house as well as make incidental repairs. McGinn selected a green roof from Green Tree Metals to replace the old one. The contract called for McGinn to initially pay Holcomb $4, 295.03 to begin the repairs and $2, 885.96 upon completion, for a total cost of $7, 180.99. Four days after McGinn and Holcomb signed the contract, McGinn wrote Holcomb a check in the amount of $4, 295.03. Two days later, the funds were withdrawn from McGinn's account.

         Unbeknownst to McGinn, Holcomb had other clients, Susan Clark and Kenneth Clark (the Clarks), who also contracted with Holcomb to replace their roof. The Clarks suffered a significant delay in their roof being repaired, and it was only completed after constant reminders from Kenneth Clark. On the same day McGinn paid Holcomb, Holcomb finally ordered the roof for the Clarks' home. Holcomb replaced the Clarks' roof in late June 2012.

         Holcomb never installed a new roof on McGinn's house. Holcomb completed some minor repairs, including staining the deck and sides of the house and painting the doors and windows. However, McGinn understood the substance of the contract to be for the roof repair. One of Holcomb's employees, Jared Richardson, also understood McGinn hired Holcomb to install a new roof. Holcomb never contacted McGinn to explain why he did not repair the roof.

         A grand jury indicted Holcomb for obtaining property or money by false pretenses-greater than $2, 000. He was subsequently indicted for breach of trust more than $2, 000. At trial, Holcomb moved for directed verdicts on both charges, which the trial court denied. During closing arguments, Holcomb objected to two comments by the solicitor, and the trial court sustained both objections. Holcomb subsequently moved for a mistrial due to the remarks, and the trial court denied the motions. The jury convicted Holcomb of both counts, and the trial court sentenced him concurrently to five years' imprisonment for each count. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "In criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of law only." State v. Baccus, 367 S.C. 41, 48, 625 S.E.2d 216, 220 (2006). Thus, an appellate court "is bound by the trial court's factual ...


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