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State v. Harper

Supreme Court of Montana

December 17, 2013

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BRENT AARON HARPER, Defendant and Appellant.

ORDER

On November 5, 2013, defendant Brent Aaron Harper, by counsel (Harper) filed a motion to stay execution of the judgment and conviction entered against him by the Montana First Judicial District Court on October 24, 2013, during the pendency of his appeal. We issued an Order temporarily staying execution of judgment and providing the State of Montana an opportunity to respond to Harper's motion. The State has now filed its memorandum in opposition to Harper's motion, together with the sworn affidavit of Deputy County Attorney Jeff Sealey, who acted as lead counsel for the State prior to and at the trial and sentencing of Harper.

Harper was convicted following a bench trial of assault with a weapon. The victim was his wife. At sentencing, Harper asked that his deferred sentence be unsupervised, arguing that his employment at a private school in the State of Washington would be terminated if he were required to report his conviction to his headmaster as a condition of supervised probation. He maintained that reporting the conviction would also result in his children being unable to continue to attend the school, as they had previously been able to do so without cost under a faculty exemption. The District Court nonetheless sentenced Harper to a three-year deferred imposition of sentence to be supervised by the Montana Department of Corrections and the State of Washington under the interstate compact.

Harper seeks to stay the execution of his sentence during the pendency of his appeal so that he may continue teaching for the rest of this school year, and then resign his position. Alternatively, he asks that we stay execution of the judgment until the middle of June 2014. He asks this Court to weigh the equities in his favor and that of his family.

The State opposes Harper's motion on several grounds. First, it argues that Harper has failed to make a prima facie showing that the order of the District Court resulted in a violation of his legal or constitutional rights. Indeed, Harper presents no challenge to the legality of the court's sentence. The State also alleges that Harper has misrepresented to this Court what occurred leading up to his trial and at sentencing. Harper advised this Court in his motion that the State forced the case to trial and refused to enter into pre-trial negotiations, and that the State did not articulate at sentencing any authority or rationale as to why Harper's sentence should be supervised. Sealey's sworn affidavit directly controverts these representations in substantial detail.

We cannot countenance misrepresentations of the record. Further, we agree with the State that Harper has failed to allege or demonstrate that the court's sentence violates Harper's legal or constitutional rights, or that the court's sentence was unlawful. Therefore,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the temporary stay of execution entered by this Court on November 6, 2013 is LIFTED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Harper's motion to stay execution of judgment is DENIED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of this Court immediately serve a copy of this order upon all counsel of record, and upon the Honorable Jeffrey Sherlock, District Court Judge.


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