ILNews

Court of Appeals revises burglary sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today revised a 40-year sentence handed down to a 19-year-old, citing inconsistencies between the trial court's oral and written sentencing statements.

In Nathan D. Feeney v. State of Indiana, 79A02-0609-CR-823, Feeney appealed his cumulative 40-year sentence for convictions of 10 counts of burglary as a Class B felony, which consisted of four consecutive and six concurrent 10-year sentences, because he believed the sentences to be too harsh given the nature of his offenses and his character.

At 18 years of age, Feeney was charged with 43 felony counts and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of burglary as a Class B felony, with the state dismissing all other counts.

At his sentencing hearing, the court said his young age could be a mitigating factor in where "you've made a mistake, but these are not mistakes." It also said the number of burglaries committed required more than the minimum sentence and consecutive sentences.

In its written sentencing statement, the trial court found the aggravating factors - the number of burglaries, Feeney's lack of candor, and the fact he had been selling drugs - balanced with his age as a mitigating factor. He was sentenced to serve 30 years at the Indiana Department of Correction, four years with the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, and six years on supervised probation.

In the opinion, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote the Court of Appeals would typically remand a case like this to the trial court; however, this is not an ordinary case. In revising the sentence, the Court of Appeals citied the differences between what was said at the oral sentencing and what was written in the sentencing statement about Feeney's age being a mitigating factor.

Typically, Indiana appellate courts have held that when a trial court finds a balance between the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, there is no reason to impose consecutive sentences. When there is conflict between the oral and written sentencing statements, the Court of Appeals can credit the statement that more accurately reflects the court's finding; however, "we cannot decipher whether the trial court's imposition of consecutive sentences represents a simple error of law or if it implies a finding that the aggravators actually outweigh the mitigators," wrote Judge Vaidik.

Under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B), the Court of Appeals revised Feeney's sentence to 14 years: 10 served in the Indiana Department of Corrections, two years at Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, and two years on supervised probation. The Court of Appeals said Feeney is surely in need of reformation, but 40 years is unduly harsh and he may find himself taken under the guidance of experienced criminals while in prison.
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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

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