The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a Starke County man’s felony receiving stolen property conviction. Richard Kozecar was sentenced in May to two years in the Department of Corrections after a jury found him guilty of the offense. Court documents indicate Dennis Olp reported the theft of a muzzleloader with an upgraded scope and other items from his garage on Dec. 18, 2011. The weapon and scope were valued at around $1,000. Less than a week later, Kozecar reportedly ran into Vance Waldrop, said he had a muzzleloader that he wanted to, quote, “get rid of” and agreed to trade him the weapon for a handgun valued between $125 and $150 and $50 cash. The men exchanged weapons even though Waldrop did not have the cash available until after he got paid. Waldrop later became suspicious that the gun was stolen and notified the police. Court documents indicate Olp identified the weapon as the one taken from his garage. Kozecar was then charged with receiving stolen property.
During his trial, Kozecar maintained he never owned a muzzleloader and never sold one to Waldrop. However, the appeals court cites statute and case law that, quote, “possession of recently stolen property when joined with attempts at concealment, evasive or false statements, or an unusual manner of acquisition may be sufficient evidence of knowledge that the property was stolen.” In this case, the court found Kozecar’s willingness to sell the gun for much less than it was worth and to proceed with the exchange before receiving payment in full to be circumstances from which the jury could reasonably infer that he knowingly possessed stolen property. The ruling goes on to note that the appeals court cannot reweigh the credibility of witnesses who testified during Kozecar’s trial and states that the surrounding circumstances support the jury’s conclusion that Kozecar knew the muzzleloader was stolen.