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State v. Ring

Supreme Court of Montana

July 11, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
RANDY BILL RING, Defendant and Appellant.

          ORDER

         The above-captioned criminal appeal was classified and sent to the Court on May 30, 2017. Self-represented Appellant Randy Bill Ring seeks a clarification of time served provisions in a prior sentence and judgment. Upon review, we deem it appropriate to consider the issue as if raised in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to this Court.

         Some background is necessary. A jury found Randy Bill Ring guilty of incest on February 16, 2012. On June 14, 2012, the First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County, sentenced him to the Montana State Prison for a twenty-year term (Cause No. DDC 2011-57) (hereinafter 2012 sentence). The District Court also stated:

The defendant is granted credit for time served prior to sentencing for the following: February 3-18, 2011; and, December 13, 2011 until when the defendant began serving his federal sentence in United States v. Randy Ring, Cause No. CR11-10-H-CCL, United States District Court, District of Montana.

         Judgment and Commitment, p. 3 (First Judicial Dist. Ct., Lewis and Clark Co., Mont. Jun. 28, 2012). The 2012 sentence was to be served consecutive to a prior sentence for forgery in the Third Judicial District Court, Powell County (DC-06-03).[1]

         On September 4, 2012, the Lewis and Clark County Attorney filed a motion to amend Ring's Judgment and Commitment asserting the 2012 sentence should have run consecutively to his sentence imposed in federal court as well as his sentence from Powell County District Court. On September 5, 2012, the Lewis and Clark County District Court issued an Amended Judgment and Commitment and revised the sentence:

[T]hat for the felony offense of INCEST, the defendant is sentenced to Montana State Prison for twenty (20) years, said sentence to run consecutively to the sentences imposed upon the defendant federally and in Cause No. DC-06-03, Montana Third Judicial District Court, Powell County.

Amended Judgment and Commitment, p. 2 (First Judicial Dist. Ct., Lewis and Clark Co., Mont. Sept. 5, 2012) (emphasis in original).

         Ring, through counsel, timely appealed his 2012 conviction and sentence. This Court issued a decision on February 25, 2014. We affirmed Ring's conviction, and remanded to the Lewis and Clark County District Court to strike various conditions, unrelated to this proceeding. State v. Ring, 2014 MT 49, ¶ 39, 374 Mont. 109, 321 P.3d 800. The District Court then issued a Second Amended Judgment and Commitment on January 2, 2015.

         Representing himself, Ring filed an application for sentence review with this Court's Sentence Review Division (SRD) on March 6, 2015. About a month later, Ring, through counsel, informed the SRD that he wished to withdraw his application, and to proceed with a petition for postconviction relief.

         On June 16, 2015, Ring, appearing pro se, filed a petition for postconviction relief in the Lewis and Clark County District Court. It was filed as a separate proceeding with a different cause number (DDV-2015-429). The District Court denied his petition on May 23, 2016, because it was untimely, missing the deadline by almost three weeks, and because Ring raised the same issues as in his appeal of his 2012 sentence. We re-stated as much when this Court denied his petition for an out-of-time appeal. Ring v. State, No. DA 16-0681, Or. (Mont. Nov. 29, 2016).[2]

         Ring presently appeals a May 17, 2016 Lewis and Clark County District Court Order, which denied Ring's motion to amend his sentence, in which he captioned it as a motion for clarification. Ring argues in his opening brief on appeal that his sentence is illegal under §46-18-116, MCA, because a discrepancy exists with his credit for time served. He explains that the latest judgment does not accurately reflect the credit for time served, which he asserts should be from February 3, 2011, through February 18, 2011, and December 13, 2011, through June 21, 2012. Ring also replies that he sought postconviction relief with the District Court in 2015. He requests that the District Court correct the "factually erroneous sentence or judgment... ."

         The State argues that Ring is precluded from any relief because Ring failed to file a timely request for a modification of his written sentence, and that he failed to file a timely petition for postconviction relief. The State points out that the Second Amended Judgment gave Ring his credit for time served: February 3-18, 2011, and December 13, 2011, until when Ring began serving the federal sentence in United States v. Ring, Cause No. CR11-10-H-CCL, United States District Court, District of Montana. The State concludes that the Lewis and Clark County District Court properly denied his motion for clarification as time-barred.

         We agree with the State that the opportunity to modify his sentences and to seek postconviction relief are no longer available to Ring because the statutory time periods have passed. While the State incorrectly advances that Ring did not file a petition for postconviction relief, the State, however, is correct that Ring's request for relief would be better served as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA. As we have stated previously, "[t]he writ of habeas corpus is designed to correct such flaws and to remedy 'extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems.'" Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶ 20, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337 (internal citation omitted).

         This appears to be one such occasion. While the District Court did give Ring credit for time served pursuant to § 46-18-403(1), MCA, the court did not provide a date certain, rather, that the time served includes "December 13, 2011 until when the defendant began serving his federal sentence in United States v. Randy Ring, Cause No. CR11-10-H-CCL, United States District Court, District of Montana." The record is not clear when he began serving his federal sentence. Because of the confusion, we conclude that justice would be better served to dismiss this case, and to consider it as an original proceeding under a new cause number, as assigned by the Clerk upon entry of ...


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