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Throckmorton v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

December 3, 2019

LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.


         Representing himself, Todd Throckmorton has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, explaining that the Department of Corrections should not have revoked his conditional release because the warrant from Texas is non-extraditable. Throckmorton requests his immediate release, expungement of the violation, and subsequent hearings. The Montana Department of Corrections (the Department or DOC) has filed a response, asserting that Throckmorton's petition should be denied.

         By way of background, Throckmorton has a felony driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) conviction from the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County. On July 5, 2011, the District Court sentenced Throckmorton to the DOC for thirteen months followed by a five-year suspended term. The District Court revoked Throckmorton's suspended sentence three times-March 2013, June 2014, and July 2016. The court sentenced Throckmorton on July 5, 2016, to a five-year, DOC term with no time suspended.

         On July 22, 2016, Throckmorton received a grant of conditional release, and his supervision was transferred via interstate compact to Austin, Texas, in April 2017. In January 2018, the DOC's Probation and Parole Division received a notice from the Travis County District Attorney's Office in Texas that Throckmorton had been jailed on a new felony DUI offense. In October 2018, Throckmorton appeared in Montana, where he was recognized by a Probation and Parole Officer, who told him to report to his probation and parole office in Dillon where Throckmorton was residing. On October 22, 2018, Throckmorton arrived at the probation and parole office and reported that he was told by his Texas probation officer that he could "just come back" to Montana. Throckmorton also offered that he had representation from counsel who would get his Texas charge dismissed. After Throckmorton left the probation and parole office, a Probation Officer Technician contacted the Travis County District Attorney's Office and learned that: Throckmorton's charge was pending in Texas; he failed to appear on October 5 in the Texas court; the court forfeited his bond; and on October 16, 2018, the court issued a warrant for his arrest. The Department adds that by the end of October, the Travis County District Attorney's Office stated it may change the warrant from non-extraditable to extraditable.

         In his instant petition, Throckmorton alleges that his Travis County warrant is non-extraditable and relies on a copy of what he located on the internet. He adds that the DOC has changed his status and that he was removed from community corrections to Montana State Prison based on the hearing officer's recommendation of secure placement. He contends that this change in placement, based on erroneous information, has violated his due process rights, and that he should have been offered the opportunity to request counsel for his hearing. He adds that he had no counsel to refute the warrant or search for it, and now he is incarcerated.

         The Department responds that Throckmorton's DUI offense and arrest in Texas violated his conditional release in 2018, and this violation precipitated his subsequent revocation proceeding in Montana. The Department further explains that there was no false information as a basis for his secure placement. The Department asserts that, when contacted, the Travis County prosecuting attorney offered that Throckmorton's case would proceed because Throckmorton had a blood alcohol content of 0.273 at the time of the offense; he hit another vehicle while driving; and he fled the scene, later being tackled by the arresting officers.

         The Department asserts that Throckmorton received all the process he was due in Montana after violating his conditional release. The Department states that a Probation and Parole Officer arrested Throckmorton on November 2, 2018, for this violation and set an initial disciplinary hearing within five days in the Beaverhead County jail. The Department summarizes the hearing as follows: Hearing Officer Garmer presided and heard testimony from the officers familiar with Throckmorton; Throckmorton waived his right to call witnesses, and he did not testify. At this hearing, Hearing Officer Garmer warned Throckmorton that because of his pending felony charge in Texas, he would be placed at MSP for his five-year sentence because no other DOC program or facility would accept him. The Department adds that both the Hearing Officer and the Probation and Parole Officer submitted secure placement requests for Throckmorton, based upon his violations, pending charge, public safety concern, and missing 43 alcohol tests. The Department notes, however, that Throckmorton was placed at START[1] on November 19, 2018. The DOC then learned in early December that the Travis County prosecuting attorney was proceeding with Throckmorton's criminal case in Texas based upon communication between the two entities.

         The Department reframes the issue of Throckmorton's placement based on his pending active warrant, as opposed to whether or not the warrant is extraditable. The Department explains that Throckmorton could not remain at START because of the Texas warrant, regardless of whether it is extraditable. The Department adds that, on December 4, 2018, Throckmorton signed a waiver of forty-eight-hour notice regarding his hearing and that he waived calling any witnesses.

         The Department points out that this sets the stage for the formal disciplinary proceeding. On December 5, 2018, Hearing Officer Motil presided over Throckmorton's formal disciplinary hearing at START and advised Throckmorton of his rights, to which Throckmorton answered in the affirmative. The Department further points out that the Hearing Officer told Throckmorton that sanctions could include his removal from START and his placement at MSP. The Department includes a complete copy of the transcript, and we refer to a relevant portion concerning his plea and the status of the warrant here:

HEARING OFFICER: Okay. So, with regard to violation 129, program ineligibility for having an active warrant, how do you plead?
THROCKMORTON: Is this from, uh, before I, before I plead, further down the road will this mess up clear conduct, um ...?
HEARING OFFICER: I mean, it can, depending on how, whatever you decide to do with this charge, so like if it's a charge that you are going to go to court for or fight, it can affect your clear conduct, um, or it, if it's dismissed, whatever happens, then it would not affect your clear conduct, so it kind of depends on what happens.
THROCKMORTON: Uh, okay. Um, I, I am, I have been charged, yes, with . . .
THROCKMORTON: . . . the, I do have a warrant, so I guess that ...

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