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Judges uphold man's convictions, enhanced sentence

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of and sentence for a man on multiple drug charges, finding that the Lake Superior judge didn’t err by enhancing the man’s sentence because he is a habitual offender.

In Christopher A. Bryant v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-1101-CR-11, the appellate court upheld decisions by Lake Superior Judge Thomas Stefaniak after Christopher Bryant challenged his convictions and sentence. The judge sentenced Bryant to 42 years on each of the two convictions of Class A felony dealing a narcotic drug, one year on the Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, and one year on the Class A misdemeanor marijuana possession; as well as a three-year enhancement resulting from Bryant’s admission of being a habitual substance offender.

On appeal, Bryant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his lawyer’s failure to challenge a strip search at a police station in Hammond and suppress the findings. The appellate court found no case holding that the arrest of a suspected felon doesn’t justify a strip search, and the judges determined that even if police had not suspected Bryant of committing a major felony there was still reasonable suspicion that he was concealing contraband.

Bryant also argued the trial judge should have granted a mistrial because of police testimony allowed concerning the strip search, but the appellate court found that he wasn’t placed in danger by the comments admitted at trial and no harm was evident.

The appellate court also denied Bryant’s argument that the trial judge improperly sentenced him using aggravating factors and not finding mitigators. The Court of Appeals found that even if the trial judge erred by not including an adequate sentencing statement as required by caselaw, Bryant’s extensive criminal history rendered any error harmless because the man likely would have received the same enhanced sentence.

 

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