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State v. Knippel

Supreme Court of Montana

June 12, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
COREY JAMES KNIPPEL, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 31, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Musselshell, Cause No. DC 16-13 Honorable Randal I. Spaulding, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Colin M. Gerstner, Gerstner Law PLLC, Billings, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy K Plubell, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Kevin Ray Peterson, Musselshell County Attorney, Roundup, Montana

          OPINION

          LAURIE MCKINNON JUSTICE

         ¶1 This proceeding originated in Roundup City Court. The State dismissed its City Court charges and re-filed them in the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, Musselshell County. Corey James Knippel appeals from an order of the District Court denying his motion to dismiss the proceeding in which he argued the State violated his statutory speedy trial right under § 46-13-401(2), MCA. We affirm and address the following issue:

Whether the District Court erred by denying Knippel's motion to dismiss in which he argued the State violated his statutory speedy trial right under § 46-13-401(2), MCA.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On November 16, 2015, A.S. used a social media platform to send a self-taken photograph and message to a family member indicating Knippel, her then-fiancé, assaulted her. The photograph depicted A.S., crying, with a swollen, black-and-blue eye; scratches and abrasions along her nose and face; a small cut on her upper lip; and a long scratch across her throat from her jugular towards her ear. The accompanying message stated, "I'm done look what he f---ing did to me." Concerned for A.S.'s safety, the family member and A.S.'s father reported the photograph and message to the Musselshell County Sheriff's Office and Sergeant Scott Johnson viewed it. The family member informed Sergeant Johnson that she witnessed Knippel striking A.S. twice in the face with his open hand in an earlier incident on November 9, 2015. In a later message on social media, A.S. told the family member that she had not called the police and asked the family member not to tell anyone. A.S. also provided an alternative explanation for her injuries, which she now suggested were the result of Knippel accidentally tripping her while they were intoxicated and running.

         ¶3 Sergeant Johnson interviewed A.S. at Knippel's home where she was staying. Sergeant Johnson observed that A.S.'s injuries were consistent with the photograph, although he observed that both of A.S.'s eyes were now black and blue and that additional bruising appeared on her cheek. Sergeant Johnson asked A.S. about her injuries and she explained she sustained them when Knippel tripped her while they were running. Sergeant Johnson told A.S. her injuries were inconsistent with a fall like she described, but A.S. stood by her account.

         ¶4 Sergeant Johnson also interviewed Knippel. After receiving a Miranda advisory, Knippel explained that A.S. received her injuries because she fell, but that he did not know where she fell and was not with her when it happened. After the interview, Sergeant Johnson arrested Knippel and the State charged him with misdemeanor partner or family member assault (PFMA).

         ¶5 On November 17, 2015, Knippel pleaded not guilty to PFMA in Roundup City Court. The City Court issued a no contact order prohibiting Knippel from contacting A.S. At the time, Knippel was conditionally released on an unrelated conviction. As a result of the PFMA charge, the City Court revoked Knippel's conditional release and ordered him detained in jail. On November 19, 2015, Knippel called A.S. from the jail on a recorded line. During the call, A.S. advised Knippel that he should refer to her as "Aunt Patty" in an apparent attempt to conceal their contact. A.S. also advised Knippel that, should anyone ask about her injuries, he should say that she "tripped and fell into a coffee table." As a result of this contact, the State charged Knippel with misdemeanor violation of a no contact order (VNCO) in City Court. On November 30, 2015, Knippel pleaded not guilty to VNCO.

         ¶6 The City Court initially set trial for Knippel's PFMA charge on February 9, 2016, but, on the State's motion, the court continued the trial until February 23, 2016.[1] The State attempted to subpoena A.S. in order for her to testify against Knippel at Knippel's trial, but could not locate or serve her. On February 23, 2016, A.S. did not appear to testify and the State moved again to continue Knippel's trial. Knippel objected, but the City Court granted the State's motion and set trial for March 29, 2016. A.S.'s family notified the State that A.S. moved to Colorado, was fearful of Knippel, and did not want to testify.

         ¶7 On March 11, 2016, the District Court granted the State leave to file an information in District Court charging Knippel with three misdemeanors: (1) PFMA for the incident on November 16, 2015, leading to A.S.'s facial injuries; (2) PFMA for the incident on November 9, 2015, when the family member observed Knippel striking A.S.; and (3) misdemeanor VNCO. The first and third charges in the District Court replaced the charges pending against Knippel in the City Court and the State moved to dismiss the City Court charges. On April 4, 2016, Knippel pleaded not guilty to the three misdemeanors in the District Court ...


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