How the “Law of Parties” Can Lead to Felony Charges Even If You Did Not Directly Participate in the Crime
May 2nd, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Criminal Defense
In Texas criminal law, a person may be held responsible for a crime they did not directly participate in under what is known as the “law of parties.” Basically, this means that someone else committed the actual crime, but the defendant charged under the law of parties acted “with the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense.” To give a simple example, the “getaway driver” in a bank robbery can be found guilty of the underlying robbery under the law of parties.
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The law of parties also means a person can be convicted of an “aggravated” offense if they are found to have promoted the “aggravating element,” such as the display or use of a deadly weapon by another person. Just recently, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston upheld an aggravated robbery conviction based on just this premise. That is to say, while the evidence showed the defendant did not rob the victim at gunpoint, the appeals court said it did prove he “solicited, encouraged, directed, aided, or attempted to aid” those who did.
The case itself, Blount v. State, began with a social media post. Moses Malone, Jr., the son of former Houston Rockets legend Moses Malone, posted comments to his personal Facebook account criticizing current Rockets star James Harden. One of Harden’s security guards contacted Malone to express Harden’s displeasure with the comments, leading Malone to delete his point.
However, the next night both Malone and Harden appeared at Fort Worth strip club. According to prosecutors the defendant–a bouncer at the club–led a group of men to confront Malone as he entered the establishment. Malone testified the defendant ordered the other men in the group to “get him.” The men, some of whom brandished firearms, then proceeded to punch Malone. They also took Malone’s wallet, iPhone, and several items of valuable jewelry.
The defendant later told a police officer that while he had approached Malone “in a professional manner” to chastise him for his comments about Harden–who was apparently a major client of the club–he did not order anyone to attack Malone. To the contrary, the defendant said he went back into the club and only came back out to break up the fight between Malone and the men who robbed him.
The police officer did not believe the defendant’s account, which he said actually confirmed the defendant’s motive for ordering the robbery–i.e., that he was retaliating against Malone for his earlier Facebook post criticizing Harden. The jury did not believe the defendant’s account either. It found the defendant guilty of aggravated robbery and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support the aggravated robbery conviction. The appeals court disagreed. While the evidence established the defendant did not personally attack Malone, display a firearm, or take Malone’s property, it was sufficient to prove the defendant “led a group of males, several of whom had firearms, toward Malone when Malone arrived at the club,” and that at the defendant’s “direction,” this group proceeded to attack and rob Malone.
Speak with a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
This case is yet another example of a defendant who thought he could help himself by talking to the police at the early stages of an investigation. The truth is that you can rarely help yourself by speaking with any investigator or prosecutor without first seeking advice from a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston or League City today if you have been charged with a serious felony and require immediate assistance. Call (281) 280-0100 .