State v. Redmond, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2022-NCCOA-5 (Jan. 4, 2022)

Upon trial de novo in superior court, the defendant in this case was convicted of misdemeanor injury to personal property for throwing a balloon filled with black ink onto a painting during a protest at an arts event in Asheville. The defendant received a suspended 30-day sentence and was ordered to pay $4,425 in restitution. On appeal, the defendant argued that her motion to dismiss the injury to personal property charge should have been granted due to a fatal variance, and argued that the restitution amount was improperly based on speculative value. The appellate court rejected both arguments.

The charging document alleged that the defendant had damaged the personal property of the artist, Jonas Gerard, but the evidence at trial indicated that the painting was the property of the artist’s corporation, Jonas Gerard Fine Arts, Inc., an S corporation held in revocable trust, where Jonas Gerard was listed as both an employee and the sole owner. Although this evidence established that the artist and the corporation were separate legal entities, each capable of owning property, the court held that the state’s evidence sufficiently demonstrated that the artist named in the pleading was nevertheless a person who had a “special interest” in the property and was therefore properly named in the charging instrument. The painting was not yet complete, it was still in the artist’s possession at the time it was damaged, and the artist regarded himself and the corporation as functionally “one and the same” and he “certainly held out the paintings as his own.” Finding the facts of this case analogous to State v. Carr, 21 N.C. App. 470 (1974), the appellate court held that the charging document was “sufficient to notify Defendant of the particular piece of personal property which she was alleged to have damaged,” and the trial court did not err in denying the motion to dismiss for a fatal variance.

The restitution amount was also supported by competent evidence. A witness for the state testified that a potential buyer at the show asked what the painting would cost when completed and was told $8,850, which was the gallery’s standard price for paintings of that size by this artist. The artist also testified that the canvas was now completely destroyed, and the black ink could not be painted over. The trial court ordered the defendant to pay half that amount as restitution. The appellate court held that the fact that the painting “had not yet been purchased by a buyer does not mean that the market value assigned by the trial court for restitution was speculative.” The evidence presented at trial was sufficient to establish a fair market value for the painting prior to it being damaged, and the trial court’s restitution order would not be disturbed on appeal.