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Man entitled to new probation revocation hearing

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a new probation revocation hearing for a Wells County man after finding the reasons by the special judge as to why the man should serve his entire previously suspended sentence were “problematic.”

Jesse Puckett was 18 years old when he had sex with a 12-year-old girl, whom he thought was older based on how she looked and what the girl told him. Puckett pleaded guilty to one count of Class C felony child molesting in exchange for the dismissal of two Class B felony molesting charges. He received a sentence of four years, suspended to probation. The state later alleged Puckett violated probation for several reasons, including having contact with a person under the age of 18 and failing to register as a sex offender.

Puckett pleaded guilty to one count of Class D felony failure to register, and most of that sentence was suspended with the remaining six months executed. At a hearing on the state’s third amended petition to revoke probation, a special judge had to be appointed because the prosecutor at the time of Puckett’s original sentencing was now the trial judge. Puckett indicated he would admit to violating his probation by committing the Class D felony failure to register and the state would dismiss and not present any evidence on any of the other probation violation allegations.

Special Judge James Heimann made several comments before imposing the sentence on Puckett, including references to Puckett having sex with the 12-year-old, even though his guilty plea was only on a charge of fondling with intent to arouse. Heimann also commented about how he often checks the sex offender registry for information around his home and was surprised that Puckett’s original sentence was completely suspended.

In Jesse Puckett v. State of Indiana, No. 90A02-1104-CR-369, the Court of Appeals found Heimann’s statements for entirely revoking Puckett’s probation and making him serve the four years that were suspended to be problematic. Heimann continually repeated displeasure with Puckett’s original plea agreement. A trial court’s belief that a sentence imposed under a plea agreement was “too lenient” isn’t a proper basis to use for determining the length of a sentence to be imposed for a probation revocation, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. It’s also improper when revoking probation for a trial court to find that the defendant actually committed a more serious crime than the one or ones of which he or she was originally convicted.

The judges didn’t hold that any single “error” in a probation revocation statement will warrant reversal, but taken together, the trial court’s statement of reasons regarding Puckett’s revocation leads the appellate court to find Heimann abused his discretion by considering improper factors before imposing the sentence. They ordered another hearing on the revocation of probation. Barnes noted that the COA declined to require Heimann to recuse himself because there hasn’t been a motion for a change of judge.   
 

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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