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Webster v. Salmonsen

Supreme Court of Montana

February 6, 2018

MYWOND J. WEBSTER, Petitioner,
v.
JIM SALMONSEN, Acting Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Mywond J. Webster has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that his incarceration is illegal because he maintains that he had no knowledge of his duty to register as a sexual offender.

         Webster has at least two convictions in Montana for failure to register. On November 22, 2011, Webster pleaded guilty to failure to register as a sexual or violent offender pursuant to § 46-23-504, MCA, in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County. The District Court imposed a five-year suspended sentence to the Montana State Prison except for his credit of 172 days of time served. At that time, as stated in the court's Judgment, this offense was Webster's second for failure to register. The court issued its written judgment on February 29, 2012. Webster did not appeal.

         On July 7, 2015, the Missoula County District Court revoked Webster's 2012 sentence and imposed a five-year prison sentence. On the same day, Webster also received a suspended five-year prison sentence for a 2014 charge of failure to register. Webster appealed both sentences. Webster, through counsel, moved for voluntary dismissal of both appeals. This Court granted the motions. State v. Webster, No. DA 16-0526, Order (Mont. Apr. 17, 2017) and State v. Webster, No. DA 16-0613, Order (Mont. Apr. 17, 2017), Webster contends that he does "not have an offense requiring registration because [he] was not convicted as defined under Montana law[.]" Webster claims that his "original guilty plea is invalid[, ]" that he is "innocent of the charge, " and that his "subsequent revocation is also invalid . . . ." He points to his entry of nolo contendere as listed in the attached Florida court disposition and minute entry, which both state that "Adjudication of Guilt was withheld." Webster surmises that the Florida court's disposition precludes his requirement for registration. Webster cites to a 2001 California case as support for his claim that he must have "knowledge of the duty to register." People v. Garcia, 23 P.3d 590, 594 (Cal. 2001). He further asserts that he is "legally innocent of the underlying offense." Webster requests his immediate release from prison.

         Habeas corpus affords applicants an opportunity to challenge collaterally the legality of their present incarceration. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA; Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶ 9, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337. Webster is doubly constrained in raising any challenge to his Montana convictions and sentences. He is barred from raising these issues in his instant petition, and these issues would have been more appropriately raised in his appeals, which he voluntarily dismissed last year. Webster has, thus, exhausted this remedy. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA; Lott, ¶ 19. Section 46-22-101(2), MCA, also states that habeas corpus "relief under this chapter is not available to attack the legality of an order revoking a suspended or deferred sentence." Webster is statutorily precluded from seeking habeas corpus relief from an order revoking a suspended sentence. Even though Webster is time- and procedurally-barred from raising these claims in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, this Court will address them to dispel any misunderstanding about his requirement to register as a sexual offender.

         In his petition, Webster is referring to his 1998 case from Florida. His attachments, which cite Florida statutes, do not support his claims. While Webster's original crime did not occur in Montana, he did receive a conviction in 1998 as defined under Florida law. On June 18, 1998, he entered a plea of nolo contendere or, no contest, to attempted lewd act upon a child under Fla. Stat. § 777.04 and § 800.04(3) in the Fifth Circuit Court, in and for Orange County, Florida. The Circuit Court ordered that Webster serve 99 days, and placed him on Community Control for one year to be followed by two years of supervised probation. While "Adjudication of Guilt was withheld" as noted in the court's disposition, Webster was still convicted of this offense. Pursuant to relevant Florida statutes, "'Convicted' means the person has been determined guilty as a result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld." Fla. Stat. § 775.2l(2)(c). This section "generally applies to all sexual offenders." State v. J.M., 824 So.2d 105, 112 (Fla. 2002) (emphasis in original). See also Montgomery v. State, 897 So.2d 1282, 1286 (Fla. 2005) ("We therefore hold that a no contest plea followed by a withhold of adjudication is a conviction for purposes of sentencing .. . .").

         Webster had knowledge of his requirement to register almost twenty years ago. A sexual offender is required to register with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE). Fla. Stat. § 943.0435. Under Florida statutes, "a sexual offender shall maintain registration with the department for the duration of his or her life . . . ." Fla. Stat. § 943.0435(11). Webster's attached FLDE Notice of Responsibilities, dated December 15, 2000, bears Webster's signature and demonstrates that he had knowledge of his registration requirement and the added responsibility to register in another state. Condition number 11 on this one-page document reads: "If I am employed, carry on a vocation, am a student, or become a resident of another state I must register in that state." Webster cannot come to this Court almost two decades later after receiving this Notice of Responsibilities and make these claims. He is not entitled to habeas corpus relief or his immediate release. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that Webster's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         The Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Order to counsel of record and ...


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