Appeals panel voids gun conviction, cuts child porn sentence

May 20, 2013

An Indianapolis man sentenced to 11 years in prison for possession of child pornography and a felony gun charge had his most serious conviction vacated and his sentence reduced to no more than four years.

A jury in Marion Superior Court convicted David F. Wood of five counts of Class D felony possession of child pornography, and he pleaded guilty to Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Wood’s wife had notified authorities after she found him in possession of photos of nude girls who appeared to be underage. Police who searched Wood’s house found two pistols on a closet shelf beneath male clothing.

In a bifurcated trial, Wood was found guilty of five of 10 counts brought against him of possessing child porn. “The jury also returned a form entitled ‘VERDICT,’ … on which the jury was to determine whether ‘Wood knowingly or intentionally possessed a firearm,’ … and on which the jury foreman marked the box for ‘NO,’” Judge Melissa May wrote for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel in David F. Wood v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1207-CR-615.

“Despite that verdict and concerns raised by Wood’s counsel and the deputy prosecutor, the trial court determined the State would be allowed to present additional evidence during a second phase of the trial to demonstrate Wood possessed firearms while being a SVF,” May wrote. “Just prior to the jury returning for that second phase of the trial, Wood announced he would plead guilty to Class B felony possession of a firearm by a SVF. The State then offered, in open court, to cap his possible sentence for that crime at six years, which is the minimum sentence for a Class B felony. The trial court accepted that plea and entered Wood’s convictions.”

Marion Superior Judge Robert Altice Jr. ordered Wood’s six-year sentence on the SVF conviction be served consecutive to five consecutive one-year sentences for the child porn convictions.

“The trial court made an error of law when it instructed the State it could proceed to second phase of trial even after the jury returned a verdict finding Wood had not knowingly or intentionally possessed the firearms,” May wrote. “If the court had not made that legal error, Wood would not have been placed in the position of deciding whether to plead guilty before the second phase of trial. … (W)e reverse his conviction.”

Wood argued the child porn convictions were a single episode of criminal conduct for which the punishment may not exceed four years, and the COA agreed.  
“We also reverse Wood’s five-year cumulative sentence for the five counts of Class D felony possession of child pornography, because that sentence violates the cap imposed by Ind. Code § 35-50-1-2, and we remand for the trial court to enter a new sentence that does not exceed four years.”

According to the Department of Correction, Wood’s projected release date had been April 2017. A sentence of four years or less would move his projected release date to no later than October.


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