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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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