Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Jennifer Evans, who represents herself to be a spiritual healer, psychic and card reader, was charged with aggregated theft by coercion of more than $200,000, collectively, from Connie Barrientes, Susan Kelly, Gregory Reiter, Yvonne Villareal, Sarah Deaver, Colleen Matsuura, Gloria Jimenez, Janette Rendon and Shante Smith. Evans’ modus operandi, stated the 4th Court of Appeals, was exemplified by the case of Shante Smith, a young CitiBank teller who first went to Evans for a card reading in November 2003. According to Smith, after Evans shuffled and laid out the tarot cards, she told Smith she saw death: someone near her � probably a young gentleman � who was going to die of colon cancer, which was spreading. Evans told Smith that relieving this man of cancer would cost $900. When Smith exclaimed that she did not have that much money, Evans asked how much she had. Smith told her around $500. Evans told her to go to the automatic teller machine across the street and withdraw what she could to put toward the $900. Smith did as she was told, withdrawing $400 from her checking account and returning to Evans’ place of business. Evans took the money and put it in a white box, saying she would pray over it and call Smith the next morning after she had looked further into her case. The next morning, Evans told Smith her case was very serious and she needed to come over as quickly as possible. When Smith arrived, Evans told her the cancer was very serious and spreading rapidly, so it would take more than $900. Evans then began to question Smith regarding how much credit Smith had available on her credit cards. When Smith told Evans what credit cards she had and their limits, Evans handed her a phone so she could immediately call for line increases. After Smith was unable to obtain line increases, Evans gave her a list of stores and instructed her to submit credit applications to them. If Smith was successful, Evans told her to get gift cards for the full amount and give them to Evans. Smith obtained credit from several stores and obtained gift cards for Evans. She also applied for and obtained $3,000 in small loans with Evans’ assistance and gave Evans those funds. By early December 2003, Smith was giving Evans virtually all of her paychecks, so there was none left over to make Smith’s car payments. Whenever Smith would ask Evans about the money, Evans would tell her to wait, because Smith was going to win the lottery at the end of the year. So absorbed was she in getting money for Evans, Smith quit her job. Once Smith’s money and ability to get money ran out, Evans stopped calling and frequently refused to take Smith’s calls. Ultimately, near the end of February 2004, Smith told her parents and called the police. By then, Smith had given Evans more than $13,978.78. Police arrested Evans, and at trial Smith testified that she gave Evans the money because she felt pressured and that she had no choice because Evans pressured and bullied her. Evans appealed the trial court’s judgment convicting her of theft by coercion. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. Evans, the court stated, argued that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s finding that she coerced her clients to part with their money. A person commits theft, the court stated, if she appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of property and without the owner’s effective consent. Consent is not effective if it is induced by coercion, the court stated. Coercion is statutorily defined a threat, however communicated, to commit an offense; to inflict bodily injury in the future on the person threatened or another; to accuse a person of any offense; to expose a person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule; or to harm the credit or business repute of any person. Each statutory definition of coercion, the court stated, requires that the defendant threaten to take some affirmative act: commit, accuse, inflict, expose or harm. In this case, the court found no evidence Evans threatened to take any affirmative act; rather, she threatened not to act by making special prayers and thus allow the harm she purported to foretell to run its course. Because there was no evidence that Evans’ actions fell within a statutory definition of coercion, the court reversed the trial court’s judgment and rendered a judgment of acquittal. OPINION:Duncan, J.; Lopez, C.J., and Stone and Duncan, J.J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.