Submitted on Briefs: October 25, 2017
FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Cascade, Cause No. DDC 13-133 Honorable
Dirk M. Sandefur, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Chad R.
Vanisko, Assistant Appellate Defender; Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan Ward
Aikin, Assistant Attorney General; Helena, Montana, Joshua A.
Racki, Cascade County Attorney, Carey Ann Haight, Deputy
County Attorney; Great Falls, Montana
Appellant Gary Hansen appeals from the imposition of sentence
following his plea of no contest to sexual assault, in the
Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County. We reverse
and remand for further proceedings, addressing the following
the District Court err by accepting Defendant's no
contest plea to the charge of sexual assault, and imposing a
sentence based upon that plea?
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The State originally charged Hansen with four counts of
felony incest, in violation of § 45-5-507(5), MCA, based
on allegations that Hansen had sexually abused his
eight-year-old granddaughter. That offense carried a
mandatory prison sentence of 100 years with no parole
eligibility for the first 25 years, subject to exceptions.
Section 45-5-507(5)(a)(i), MCA (2013). The State also charged
Hansen with one count of obstructing a peace officer, a
misdemeanor, after Hansen tried to evade officers during the
Hansen entered into a plea agreement with the State, wherein
he agreed to enter a no contest plea to an amended charge of
sexual assault under § 45-5-502(3), MCA (sexual assault
of a victim under the age of 16 by an offender at least 3
years older than the victim). This offense carried a minimum
sentence of four years, with exceptions, and a maximum of
life or 100 years. Section 45-5-502(3), MCA. The State agreed
to dismiss the remaining charges and to recommend to the
District Court that Hansen be sentenced to 50 years in
Montana State Prison (MSP) with 25 years suspended. The
agreement allowed Hansen to make any sentencing
recommendation he believed to be appropriate.
The District Court conducted a change of plea hearing,
finding that a proper basis existed for entry of the no
contest plea after explaining in detail to Hansen the
difference between a guilty plea and a no contest plea. The
District Court found that Hansen was making a knowing,
voluntary, and intelligent plea. Before accepting the plea,
the District Court informed Hansen that it was not bound by
the sentencing recommendations in the plea and advised him of
the maximum possible penalty, life or 100 years in prison.
At sentencing, the State recommended a sentence of 50 years
with 25 years suspended, consistent with the plea agreement,
and Hansen's counsel requested a 20-year sentence, with
10 years suspended. The District Court sentenced Hansen to 60
years in MSP with no time suspended. Hansen appeals,
challenging the validity of his plea and sentence, and
raising a claim of ineffective assistance against his trial
counsel for negotiating a plea agreement premised upon an
We review whether a District Court had statutory authority to
impose a sentence denovo. State v.
Ring, 2014 MT 49, ¶ 15, 374 ...