Bogus $50 bill’s pot purchase can’t snuff out counterfeiting conviction

A St. Joseph County man failed to persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals to toss his counterfeiting conviction on his argument that his alleged pot dealer lied to police about how he had received a phony $50 bill.

The appellate panel Tuesday affirmed Malik Gardner’s conviction of Level 6 felony counterfeiting and a Class A misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement.

The case began May 24, 2017, when Gardner met with Carlton Gary to buy some marijuana. He gave Gary two folded $50 bills, but when Gary later tried to use one of the bills to buy gas, the store clerk noticed the bill was marked “For Motion Picture Use Only” and declined to accept it. The clerk refused to return the bill, and he and Gary agreed to call police to report it, according to the record.

When police arrived, Gary told them Gardner had given him the bills in exchange for a pair of shoes, and later the same day, Gardner was arrested “with multiple bills in his possession that were also labeled ‘For Motion Picture Use Only,’” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel in Malik Gardner v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.), 19A-CR-798.

“… Gardner argues that the State’s evidence is insufficient because it is based on the testimony of Gary, who not only lied to police about what he sold Gardner but also because he admitted to using illegal substances,” Bradford wrote in the memorandum decision affirming Gardner’s conviction. “This argument, however, is nothing more than an invitation to reweigh the evidence and judge witness credibility, which we will not do.”

Regardless, the evidence was sufficient to meet the elements of counterfeiting, the panel concluded in a five-page opinion. “To convict Gardner of Level 6 felony counterfeiting, the State was required to prove that Gardner knowingly or intentionally made or uttered a written instrument in such a manner that it purports to have been made by authority of one who did not give authority.

“… The record indicates that Gardner purchased marijuana from Gary using what he purported to be two folded fifty dollar bills, which were subsequently discovered to be marked with a ‘For Motion Picture Only’ inscription. The record also indicates that after fleeing from police, Gardner was apprehended with additional bills on his person matching the serial numbers and ‘For Motion Picture Only’ inscription as the bills Gardner gave to Gary,” Bradford wrote.

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