APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Dawson, Cause No. DC-11-075 Honorable Richard A. Simonton, Presiding Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Laurie McKinnon
Submitted on Briefs: February 27, 2013
Justice Laurie McKinnon delivered the Opinion of the Court.
¶1 Brian Keith Jent pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his wife, Nancylee Cadorette. As part of his sentence, the Seventh Judicial District Court, Dawson County, ordered Jent to pay $44,112.74 in restitution, including $19,866.69 for Cadorette's medical expenses arising from her suicide attempt two and a half months after Jent's assault. Jent appeals only that portion of his sentence involving the $19,866.69 in restitution. He claims that Cadorette, in respect to her suicide attempt, cannot be considered a "victim" of his offense for restitution purposes, and that there was no causal connection between his criminal conduct and the medical expenses associated with the suicide attempt. We affirm the District Court's order of restitution.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
¶2 Jent and Cadorette, husband and wife, have what can be characterized as a tumultuous and often violent relationship. On October 27, 2011, Jent and Cadorette got into a drunken argument. Jent struck Cadorette in the face, fracturing the orbital wall of her right eye socket. Cadorette was initially treated at Glendive Medical Center and subsequently underwent surgery in Billings. Jent also damaged Cadorette's vehicle, television, and computer.
¶3 On November 18, 2011, the State charged Jent with aggravated assault and two counts of felony criminal mischief. On January 13, 2012, Jent pleaded guilty to aggravated assault pursuant to a plea agreement which recommended a sentence of eight years to the Department of Corrections, with six years suspended, and various conditions, including restitution. Jent agreed to pay restitution for Cadorette's medical bills in an amount to be determined prior to sentencing. The State moved to dismiss the criminal mischief counts.
¶4 On the same day that Jent pleaded guilty, Cadorette ingested a bottle of Ambien and two bottles of Crown Royal whiskey. This occurred two days after Cadorette's January 11, 2012 meeting with the prosecutor and defense counsel where the criminal proceedings against Jent were discussed. As a result of her suicide attempt, Cadorette spent the next several days in a behavioral health unit and accumulated medical expenses totaling $19,866.69.
¶5 A probation/parole officer prepared a presentence investigation report (PSI) for sentencing. The Restitution section of the PSI identifies $19,866.69 as "the costs associated with [Cadorette's] medical care due to her mental health issues occurring after the instant offense." Cadorette also prepared an Affidavit of Victim's Pecuniary Loss, which the District Court admitted into evidence over Jent's objection. In addition to other amounts claimed as restitution, which are not at issue in this appeal, the affidavit included the $19,866.69 in medical expenses related to her suicide attempt.
¶6 In the Victim's Impact section of the PSI, the probation/parole officer notes that she spoke with Cadorette on March 5, 2012. Cadorette told the officer that she had attempted suicide on two separate occasions since Jent's offense, the most recent on January 13. Cadorette stated that she had attempted suicide "because she felt guilty about what happened and was blaming herself for the instant offense." Cadorette also stated that she felt Jent's plea agreement with the State was "harsh" and that he "just needs anger treatment." The probation/parole officer reiterated these facts during her testimony at Jent's sentencing hearing. She testified that at their March 5 meeting, Cadorette "voiced a lot of guilty feelings, feelings that she was somehow at fault for this." Cadorette "blamed herself a lot in the instant offense." Jent did not refute the officer's testimony in this regard.
¶7 Cadorette also testified at the sentencing hearing. She explained that her relationship with Jent was "pretty rocky" and often violent, and that two of Jent's prior offenses involved assaults against her. She admitted responsibility for participating in some of the marital disputes. Regarding the instant offense, Cadorette testified that she had not asked Jent to pay her medical expenses arising out of her January 13, 2012 suicide attempt. Nevertheless, she agreed that her suicide attempt was "directly related" to Jent's assault against her eleven weeks earlier, and that her meeting with the prosecutor and defense counsel on January 11 had "drudged up" her ...