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United States v. Donato-Morales

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
382 F.3d 42 (2004)


Juan J. Donato-Morales (Donato) (defendant) visited a military base post-exchange store to shop for a videocassette recorder (VCR). Donato and a store clerk agreed that Donato would buy a Mitsubishi model 445 VCR. The clerk left Donato, who then took a more expensive Mitsubishi model 746 VCR and placed it in the model 445's carton. Both models were boxed in similar cartons and store signs did not display their prices. Donato left the store after paying for a model 445 VCR rather than the more expensive model 746 VCR. A store security officer apprehended Donato for shoplifting, and the United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Donato for larceny. The pertinent statute did not include specific intent as one of the elements of the crime. Donato claimed that he did not realize that the two models differed in price and that he did not intend to shoplift. At Donato's bench trial, the store clerk testified that Donato told the clerk that he intended to buy the model 445 VCR. The government introduced surveillance camera footage showing Donato behaving furtively while he switched the VCRs. The government also introduced testimony indicating that Donato lied to investigators about his actions. Donato also gave signs of fabricating parts of his own testimony. The judge found Donato guilty of larceny and he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, J.)

Dissent (Torruella, J.)

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