Appeals Court rejects Reynolds appeal

A Pine Bluff man who was sentenced to prison after being charged with violating conditions of his suspended sentence failed to convince the Arkansas Court of Appeals that the trial court made a mistake when he was sentenced.

Gregory Donzell Reynolds, 36, claimed that Circuit Judge Berlin C. Jones made a mistake by admitting statements at the hearing that violated his right to confront witnesses.

On Feb. 2, 2010, Reynolds pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sex offender and received a three year suspended sentence.

A petition to revoke that suspended sentence was filed Oct. 26, 2011, because additional criminal charges had been filed against Reynolds. These included two counts of residential burglary, breaking or entering, three counts of theft of property, aggravated residential burglary and aggravated robbery, which all reportedly occurred between Aug. 17, 2011, and Sept. 10, 2011.

In November, prosecutors filed a second petition alleging that Reynolds had failed to pay $1,750 in fines and costs and a hearing was set on the petitions to revoke on Jan. 10, 2012.

At that hearing, Patrick Saffold, who was a police detective, testified that he was assigned to investigate a burglary that occurred Aug. 17, 2011, and reading from a report, said the victims told police they were asleep when a wallet on the nightstand next to the bed was taken. Saffold also testified that someone identified as “Sergeant Williams” processed the scene for fingerprints.

Saffold testified that he had investigated a second burglary on Southern Pines Drive and Cathy Ruhl, a crime scene technician, had processed the scene for fingerprints. Fingerprints collected from both crime scenes matched Reynolds, he said.

In both cases, the defense attorney for Reynolds objected because “Sergeant Williams” and Ruhl were not in court to testify, which violated Reynolds’ right to confront his accusers, an objection Jones overruled, saying that Reynolds was not being tried for the burglaries at the hearing.

Also testifying was Frank Thomas Williams Jr., who said he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2011, by his dog barking and the sound of breaking glass. Williams said he went into the kitchen and saw Reynolds with a purse that belonged to the homeowner and had been sitting on a counter.

Williams said he chased Reynolds to the door and grabbed Reynolds by his shirt, but Reynolds slipped out of the shirt and ran. He identified Reynolds from a photo line up after the incident and again during the revocation hearing.

Appeals Court Judge Doug Martin said in the ruling that any error Jones might have made regarding the testimony of Saffold was harmless “because the trial court did not rely solely on Saffold’s testimony with respect to burglaries committed on Aug. 17 and Sept. 7 but also relied on Williams’ testimony with respect to the charges of aggravated residential burglary, theft of property and aggravated robbery that occurred Sept. 10. Williams’ testimony provided the state with a strong case against Reynolds, regardless of the crimes testified to by Saffold.”

Reynolds, who is being held at the Pine Bluff Unit of the Department of Correction, will be eligible to apply for parole in January and if that is granted, he will be returned to the adult detention center and required to post bond on the pending charges stemming from the arrests last year.