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State v. Frederick Charles Day

Supreme Court of Montana

March 20, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
FREDERICK CHARLES DAY, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 14, 2018

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. CDC 14-359 Honorable John A. Kutzman, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Madison L. Mattioli, Assistant Attorney General; Helena, Montana Joshua A. Racki, Cascade County Attorney, Kory Larsen, Deputy County Attorney; Great Falls, Montana

          OPINION

          Jim Rice Justice

         ¶1 Frederick Day (Day) appeals from the sentence imposed by the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, committing him to the Department of Corrections (DOC) while also ordering that he could not be released from incarceration until he had completed sexual offender treatment. We reverse and remand for resentencing, addressing the following issue:

         Did the District Court err by imposing a restriction upon Day's release from incarceration while committing him to the DOC?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 The Great Falls Police Department conducted a sting operation designed to apprehend child sexual predators. Day arranged to meet a supposed 12-year-old or 15-year-old female prostitute at a hotel after communicating with an undercover agent posing as a "madam." Day paid the undercover agent $200 and indicated his willingness to have sex with the girl, after which he was arrested and charged with one count of Prostitution or, alternatively, Attempted Prostitution. Day entered into a non-binding plea agreement with the State whereby he agreed to plead guilty to Attempted Prostitution, while the State agreed to recommend a commitment to the DOC for twenty-five years, with twenty years suspended, and for Day to be classified as a Tier I sex offender, the lowest risk level.

         ¶3 At the sentencing hearing, the District Court considered a range of sentencing options, including imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence of 100 years at Montana State Prison (MSP), a commitment to DOC for twenty-five years with twenty years suspended, and imposition of a deferred or suspended sentence. The court, describing its action as "unorthodox[], but I'm convinced that I have the authority to do it, " called its own witness-Probation Officer Hides, who had prepared a portion of the Presentence Investigation Report-to ask him about the plea agreement and his perspectives on a proposed sentence. In response to the court's questions, Hides indicated he had "significant concerns" with the plea agreement, pointing to Day's recent out-of-state felony charge, and observing that if Day had been successful in contacting a real prostitution service, children could have been harmed. Hides recommended a commitment to MSP for at least five years. The court inquired about DOC processes and asked Hides, if it committed Day to the DOC, would DOC "decide[] whether he's incarcerated at all?" Hides affirmed that the DOC would have full discretion and that it sometimes referred sex offenders to pre-release centers because such cases "don't take a high priority." The court then asked Hides, "If I were - the sentence in the plea agreement, which is a 25-year Department of Corrections commitment with 20 suspended, and I order him to complete sex offender treatment, and I say no more about it than that, where does he have to do sex offender treatment?" Hides responded that Phase I could be completed at a pre-release program, while Phase II could only be completed while the offender was incarcerated at MSP. The District Court then inquired how long Phase II would take to complete, and Hides responded that completion of both phases would take three and a half to four years.

         ¶4 The District Court asked the parties for sentencing recommendations. Although expressing concerns about the new charge Day had received while on release for this matter, the prosecutor believed the plea agreement could not be altered, and recommended a sentence in accordance therewith, including a Tier I offender status. Day's counsel recommended a 25-year commitment to the DOC, with all time suspended, citing supporting factors, such as a psychosexual report indicating Day was an appropriate candidate for outpatient therapy, his low risk to reoffend, his gainful employment, lack of criminal history, and lack of a victim.

         ¶5 The District Court observed it faced a difficult task in imposing sentence, stating "the problem here is trying to balance the fact that Mr. Day did not actually inflict any harm on an actual child who was legally too young to have sexual relations against the fact that the ONLY reason he did not actually inflict that harm on a real child was that the people at that hotel were police rather than madams and child prostitutes." (Emphasis in original.) The court evaluated factors in Day's favor and against Day's favor. The court then committed Day, consistent with the plea agreement, to the DOC for a term of 25 years with 20 years suspended. However, the court then added that, while it "decided to go along with the plea agreement" it was including "one important tweak, " to "make [the sentence] more burdensome for [Day]."[1] The court stated, "I am ordering that you must complete Phase I and Phase II of the sexual offender treatment program while you are incarcerated, and that you are not to be released until you have completed Phase I and Phase II." (Emphasis added.) The court designated Day as a Tier I sexual offender, citing the psychosexual evaluation. Day appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 We review a sentence in a criminal case for legality, to determine if the sentence is within statutory confines. State v. Burch, 2008 MT 118, ¶ 12, 342 Mont. 499, 182 P.3d 66. Because a district court's sentencing authority is defined by statute, a sentence that ...


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