Court upholds conviction in Hanover College dorm burglary
Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:00 AM
The Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the 36-year sentence of a Scottsburg man arrested after a burglary at Wiley Hall at Hanover College in September 2011.
Eric R. Rasnick, 33, received 18 years in prison for the burglary and 18 additional years for being a habitual offender.
Two students saw Rasnick leaving Wiley Hall and called police after noticing their laptops and several cameras had been stolen from their room. One of the students was able to get part of a license plate number.
Sheriff's deputies found a car matching that description and found the stolen items in the car.
The students, who were brought to the scene of the traffic stop, identified Rasnick as the one they saw in their dorm building.
At the time of his arrest, Rasnick was on parole for another offense and had been placed on a GPS monitoring device.
Officials were able to trace his movements through Madison and into Wiley Hall on the Hanover College campus. They were also able to track him out to the scene where the sheriff's deputy made the traffic stop.
James Spencer, Rasnick's attorney, argued that presenting GPS evidence to a jury was improper because the "mere fact that he was on GPS" likely "created speculation by the jury as to why he was being monitored," according to the court briefs.
Spencer also argued that while GPS proved Rasnick was at Hanover College, it did not prove that any crime took place.
The Court of Appeals said the trial court did an effective job of avoiding prejudicing the jury as to Rasnick's past and the GPS data was not improper.
"The data placed Rasnick at both the scene of the burglary and at the scene of the arrest," wrote Judge Paul Mathias, the author of the opinion. Judges Edward Najam Jr. and James Kirsch concurred with the opinion.
Spencer also argued that the students going to the scene of Rasnick's arrest was improper because police may have led them to believe they had found the people who had stolen their things.
Case law in Indiana provides that bringing a victim to view a suspect in person is not improper so long as it is done within a short time after the crime and items used in the crime or stolen during the crime are not shown to the victim.
In this case, both students identified Rasnick upon arriving at the scene, an event that occurred 30 minutes after the burglary. The stolen items had not been taken out of the car yet, either, according to court records.
Rasnick also argued that the sentence was inappropriate, and that the court placed too much emphasis on certain aggravating circumstances, including his criminal history.
Rasnick had been arrested 18 times in 10 years and had been convicted of five felonies, four of which were for prior burglaries.
"Despite Rasnick's attempts to minimize the nature of his offenses, the facts in this case, and Rasnick's criminal history, strongly support the trial court's sentencing judgment," Mathias wrote.