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COA affirms 20-year sentence for man convicted of firearm, drug felonies

September 11, 2017

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a 20-year sentence imposed on a man convicted of illegally possessing a firearm and driving children in car while under the influence of various drugs, finding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in considering aggravators and that the sentence is not inappropriate.

In Shannon D. Moyer v. State of Indiana, 79A04-1703-CR-477, Shannon Moyer gave Kathy Jo Adams money to purchase a shotgun, and Adams indicated on the purchase form that the firearm was for herself. But after she left the store, Adams gave the shotgun to Moyer, who was not permitted to possess it because of a conviction of Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance. Adams was eventually convicted on charges related to purchasing the gun.

Meanwhile, while patrolling a wooded area in Tippecanoe County in November 2015, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources saw Moyer’s truck filled with various hunting items. Although Moyer denied hunting on the property, the officers found a 12-gauge shotgun hidden in the wooded area. Moyer denied owning the gun, but the officers obtained surveillance footage showing Moyer and Adams purchasing the firearm.

Then in 2016, Moyer, who was under the influence of amphetamines and marijuana, swerved off the road while driving his 2-year-old son and his girlfriend’s 9-year-old daughter. After getting out of the car, he fell down in the middle of the road. The 9-year-old girl was forced to help him out of the roadway, then carry the 2-year-old from door to door looking for help. Moyer was later found passed out in a wooded area near the accident.

Moyer pleaded guilty via open plea agreement to Level 6 felony neglect of a dependent and Level 6 felony operating a vehicle with a minor passenger under Cause 225 and Level 4 felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felony in Cause 7. He also admitted to being a habitual offender in exchange for the dismissal of other charges against him under both causes, and the Tippecanoe Superior Court sentenced him to an aggregate of 20 years.

In a consolidated appeal, Moyer challenged only the portion of his aggregate sentence that was imposed under Cause 7, the SVF conviction with a habitual offender enhancement. But because Moyer pleaded guilty pursuant to a single plea agreement that covered all causes against him, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled it must review his aggregate sentence in its entirety.

The appellate court then affirmed Moyer’s sentence, with Judge Terry Crone writing the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors. Specifically, when the trial court said it was considering as an aggravator the probation department’s determination that Moyer was at a high risk to reoffend – a fact that, if true, would be improper as a matter of law – the court was actually using Moyer’s risk assessment scores as a supplement to the factors in the written sentencing orders, Crone wrote. The risk assessment scores were not included in the written order, the judge noted, so the court did not improperly consider them as an aggravator.  

Further, the appellate court rejected Moyer’s argument that his sentence was inappropriate, noting the “troubling” nature of the circumstances surrounding his offenses and that his extensive criminal history points to a life as a career criminal. However, because the trial court incorrectly denied Moyer two days of jail credit-time, the case was remanded for his credit time to be adjusted accordingly.

 

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