District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S.
Trease No. 131907893
Nathalie S. Skibine and Christopher J. Jones, Attorneys for
D. Reyes and Jeanne B. Inouye, Attorneys for Appellee.
Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges David
N. Mortensen and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.
Timothy James Trujillo appeals his conviction for retaliation
against a witness, victim, or informant, a third degree
felony. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-8-508.3(2)
(LexisNexis 2012). On appeal, Trujillo argues that his
statements to police did not constitute a threat; that any
threat he might have made was not directed against a witness,
victim, or informant; and that the trial court erroneously
admitted evidence of gang affiliation. We affirm.
While on patrol one evening, a police officer encountered an
intoxicated minor who appeared to have been assaulted.
Although several other people were nearby, this initial
officer determined that none of them were the culprits. He
cited the minor for underage drinking and left. Later that
night, the initial officer returned to the scene after
receiving a report of a man wielding a knife.
Upon arrival, the initial officer saw two groups of people
arguing. One of these groups included the minor encountered
previously, the minor's brother, Trujillo, and another
man. The other group consisted of neighbors. The initial
officer detained the minor and his brother and told Trujillo
and the other man to leave. After further surveying the
scene, the initial officer located three butcher knives and
called for backup. When the backup officers arrived, the
initial officer told them that Trujillo and the other man
might be the owners of the knives, and he gave the backup
officers their likely location.
After locating Trujillo and the other man, the backup
officers asked both individuals to speak with them, but they
ran inside a nearby house. The officers followed, knocked on
the door, and announced that they were police officers. They
received no response. Fearing the men might retrieve weapons,
the officers kicked down the door. The backup officers
arrested Trujillo and the other man and then confirmed their
identities with the initial officer, who informed Trujillo
and the other man that they were being charged with
aggravated assault and failing to stop at the command of a
At this point, Trujillo began to argue with the officers and
proclaim his innocence. After Trujillo brought up the
neighbors, the officers told Trujillo that the neighbors had
not been involved in the minor's assault, that they were
trying to help the minor, and that Trujillo should "stay
away from them." Trujillo responded by saying that
"if I'm being charged with [aggravated assault],
" then "my boys will be paying [them] a visit . . .
and it's [the officers'] fault." Trujillo
repeated this several times before continuing, "Do you
expect me to go to . . . jail and nothing happen?"
The State charged Trujillo with one count of retaliation
against a witness, victim, or informant. Following his
bindover on the charge, Trujillo filed a motion to quash,
arguing that the State did not present sufficient evidence
that he made a threat of harm. The trial court denied the
motion. Later, the State filed a motion in limine, seeking
leave to admit evidence of Trujillo's gang affiliation
because of its importance in demonstrating that
Trujillo's comments constituted a threat of harm. The
trial court granted the motion. At trial, the State called
one of the backup officers as an expert witness, and he
testified as to the history of gangs in prison, gang culture
generally, and Trujillo's role as a leader in the gang
with which he was affiliated. The jury convicted Trujillo,
and the trial court sentenced him to an indeterminate prison
term not to exceed five years. Trujillo appeals.
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Trujillo first claims that there was insufficient evidence to
support a conclusion that his statements constituted a
threat. "In assessing a claim of insufficiency of the
evidence, 'we review the evidence and all inferences
which may reasonably be drawn from it in the light most
favorable to the verdict of the jury.'" State v.
Cruz, 2016 UT App 234, ...