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Judges reduce restitution award stemming from correctional officer attack

February 4, 2014

A partial permanent impairment settlement cannot be considered by a trial court when imposing restitution, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

In Ruben Gonzalez v. State of Indiana, 52A02-1306-CR-526, Ruben Gonzalez appealed the $41,200 in restitution he was ordered to pay to JWF Specialty Company, the third-party administrator for the state’s workers’ compensation benefits. Gonzalez, while incarcerated at the Miami Correctional Facility, severely beat correctional officer Rodney Gahl with a padlock contained in a sock. The attack caused severe life-threatening injuries, resulting in extensive treatment and therapy and substantial permanent impairments.

Gonzalez was convicted of Class A felony attempted murder and Class B felony aggravated battery. The trial court ordered he pay JWF more than $257,000 in restitution. He only appealed the portion of the restitution order related to the permanent partial impairment settlement paid to Gahl.

The parties agree that JWF can recoup the restitution amounts JWF paid for Gahl’s medical treatment and lost wages, which were incurred prior to the sentencing hearing.

“The medical and lost-wages costs assumed by JWF are specific costs that a trial court shall consider when imposing restitution. The same cannot be said for the PPI settlement,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote, citing I.C. 35-50-5-3(a)(2) and (4).

“A PPI payment is compensation for an injured employee’s permanent loss of physical function(s) rather than for an inability to work. Gahl, himself, could not have sought restitution at the criminal proceeding for loss of physical function, as it does not encompass already-incurred lost wages or medical expense. Accordingly, JWF cannot recover the PPI payment via its status as a surrogate victim.”

The judges remand for the trial court to reduce the restitution award by $41,200. They also ordered the trial court to vacate the aggravated battery conviction because of a double jeopardy violation.
 

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