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Ellis v. Linder

Supreme Court of Montana

July 10, 2013

MICHAEL D. ELLIS, Petitioner,
MIKE LINDER, Yellowstone County Sheriff, MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Mike Batista, Director. Respondents.


Convicted upon a guilty plea to Burglary in Richland County District Court in 1997, Michael Dana Ellis (Ellis) received a five-year deferred sentence. In 2001, the District Court revoked the sentence and imposed an eight-year commitment to the Department of Corrections (DOC), with all except four years suspended. Ellis claims that under the 1999 version of § 46-18-20 l(3)(d)(i), MCA, DOC commitments could not exceed five years. As a result, he would have discharged his sentence in January 2006. He asserts that he has been subjected to an illegal sentence. He also claimed that he was incarcerated based upon an illegal "DOC hold" without bond.

Respondents filed a response to the petition attaching the applicable court orders from Richland, Powell and Yellowstone Counties. The documents show that the State petitioned to revoke Ellis's 2001 suspended sentence in August 2006 and filed an amended petition on September 15, 2006. In a September 22, 2009 adjudicatory hearing, the Richland County District Court found Ellis had violated various conditions of his supervision, revoked the suspended portion of Ellis's 2001 sentence and resentenced him to the DOC for three years.

Alleging that Ellis failed to return to the Billings Prerelease Center while under official detention, on May 3, 2011, the Powell County Attorney charged Ellis with Escape. Ellis was arrested, but the Powell County charge was dismissed without prejudice by order of the court and the Escape charge was refiled in Yellowstone County. Ellis was transferred to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, where he remained at the time he filed the instant petition.

Ellis filed a motion for resentencing in Richland County on the basis that the February 13, 2001 sentence was facially invalid. On March 24, 2013, the Seventh Judicial District Court granted Ellis's motion for resentencing and vacated the October 8, 2009 order revoking the deferred sentence. The District Court agreed that the statutory constraints in place when the sentence was revoked on February 13, 2001 allowed a maximum five-year DOC commitment. Since a five-year DOC commitment would have expired before the petition to revoke and amended petition were filed in 2006, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to revoke the suspended sentence and vacated its 2009 order. Or. Granting Motion for Resentencing, State v. Ellis, No. DC 97-15 (Mont. 7th Jud. Dist. Ct. Mar. 24, 2013).

Once the basis for the Escape charge was vacated, the Yellowstone County Attorney moved for dismissal. The Thirteenth Judicial District Court issued an order dismissing the pending charge and Ellis was released from custody on May 31, 2013.

The Respondents maintain that Ellis's release from custody precludes this Court from granting any effective relief and suggest that this Court dismiss the petition as moot. (Citing State v. Sor-Lokken, 247 Mont. 343, 351, 805 P.2d 1367, 1373 (1991) and Sebastian v. Mahoney, 2001 MT 88, \ 7, 305 Mont. 158, 25 P.3d 163).

We agree that the Richland County District Court granted Ellis the relief sought here. Similarly, Yellowstone County dismissed the pending Escape charge once the underlying sentence was vacated. Consequently, Ellis's release from custody leaves no controversy to be decided and this matter is moot.

IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED, as moot.

The Clerk is directed to provide a copy hereof to counsel of record and to Michael Dana Ellis.

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