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Pujol v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 13, 2019

Crystal Pujol, Appellant,
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 14-22751A Ellen Sue Venzer, Judge.

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and James A. Odell, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Kayla Heather McNab, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before LINDSEY, HENDON, and GORDO, JJ.

          LINDSEY, J.

         Crystal Pujol appeals her conviction and sentence for burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, grand theft, and criminal mischief. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


         When Kristen Bauer and Danny Malone returned to their home on September 12, 2014, they discovered they had been burglarized. Bauer and Malone reported to law enforcement that multiple items in their home were either out of place, broken, or missing. No person witnessed the burglary and no direct physical evidence was left behind. Nevertheless, during his preliminary investigation, Miami-Dade Detective Kelvin Peguero Bruno learned that Bauer and Malone's neighbor's surveillance camera captured the incident.

         The surveillance footage showed a silver Hyundai drive up to and park in front of Bauer and Malone's home. A slim, light-skinned woman with long, red hair exited from the driver's side, approached the house, and knocked on the door. Shortly thereafter, the woman returned to the vehicle. As the woman got back into the vehicle, a man exited from the passenger's side door. He then proceeded toward the back of the house, and the woman drove off. Approximately 15 minutes later, the silver car returned to Bauer and Malone's home. The man ran out of the house carrying a pillowcase and a suitcase. He placed both items in the trunk before getting back into the vehicle as it drove away.

         Detective Bruno and Detective Raquel Mascarena were initially unable to identify the perpetrators based on the surveillance footage alone because they could not get a clear look at their faces. The only physical characteristics they were able to make out were the perpetrators' skin color, hair color, and build. The detectives were, however, able to discern the vehicle's license plate number. From that, the detectives were able to learn the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle, Crystal Pujol, the defendant in this case.

         Armed with this information, the detectives drove to Pujol's registered address and surveilled the property from a few blocks away in an unmarked car. Approximately 40 minutes later, the detectives witnessed two individuals who matched the descriptions of the perpetrators get in a green Toyota and drive off. The detectives followed the vehicle as it made its way from Broward County into Miami-Dade County. Once the vehicle entered Miami-Dade County, the detectives instructed a different officer in a marked police car to pull the vehicle over. Pujol and her male passenger, Antwan Holmes, were arrested and taken to the police station for processing. A search incident to arrest revealed a pair of gloves and a crowbar inside the car.

         Pujol was wearing a lot of jewelry at the time of her arrest. At the police station, the officers asked Pujol to remove all the jewelry. Bauer identified two pieces of jewelry she had reported stolen. During her recorded, post-Miranda interview, Pujol admitted that she owned the silver Hyundai, but denied being involved with the burglary. She stated that she was in the area with Holmes at the time because she was looking for a new place to rent and that she knocked on the door of a few houses displaying "for rent" signs. Pujol maintained her innocence and proceeded to trial. Holmes, however, admitted that he was the man in the surveillance footage and pled guilty to the charges against him.

         At trial, Holmes testified that the woman in the video was not Pujol. He claimed it was another woman-also with red hair-that he was dating at the time. Holmes asserted that although Pujol was a friend of his, he stole her car while she was sleeping to pick up the other woman. When attempting to explain how Pujol was arrested wearing some of the stolen jewelry, Holmes testified that he had left some of the stolen jewelry in Pujol's car. He testified that he wanted to tell Pujol she was wearing stolen jewelry when he noticed the items on her on the day they were arrested, but he remained silent, fearing Pujol would turn him in. Yet, despite Holmes' trial testimony, Holmes had previously stipulated to the accuracy of the arrest report as part of the colloquy incident to his plea. That report listed Pujol as his codefendant. According to Holmes, he did not read the arrest report before stipulating to its contents. He testified that he stipulated to the report only to receive a more favorable plea offer from the State.

         Bauer and Malone also testified at trial. The State relied primarily on their testimony to prove the value of the stolen items and the property Holmes damaged.[1]Bauer had difficulty remembering the value of the stolen items at first. The State refreshed her recollection by showing her a catalog for the stolen wedding ring. When she could not remember the value of her red heart pendant, the State provided Bauer with a police report containing Bauer's list of the items that were stolen and their value. Bauer testified that she prepared and submitted a report with all the receipts for the stolen items to the police. The trial court allowed the State to introduce the report as a past ...

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