The Indiana Supreme Court cut a man’s sentence in half, from 32 to 16 years, by a 3-2 decision after it found consecutive sentences in the case were not appropriate because the state sponsored a series of identical offenses.
Ronald Eckelbarger was sentenced to an aggregate 32-year sentence after he was charged and convicted of two counts of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine (counts I and II), one count of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine (count III), and one count of Class D felony possession of precursors with intent to manufacture methamphetamine (count IV).
The trial court sentenced him to 16 years with four suspended on counts I and II, to be served concurrently, 16 years with four suspended on count III, and three years on count IV. Counts III and IV would run concurrently, but consecutively to counts I and II
The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence but the Supreme Court granted transfer. In a per curiam opinion the court said, “We have previously observed that ‘[c]onsecutive sentences are not appropriate when the state sponsors a series of virtually identical offenses,’” citing Gregory v. State, 644 N.E.2d 543, 544. Because of that, the court said the sentences for counts III and IV should be served concurrently to counts I and II.
Counts III and IV were “convictions supported by evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant procured based on the dealing methamphetamine by delivery counts,” and therefore the majority of Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justices Robert Rucker and Steven David cut Eckelbarger’s sentences to 16 years.
Justices Brent Dickson and Mark Massa dissented. They believed “the extraordinary relief of appellate sentence revision is not warranted in this case.”
The case is Ronald Eckelbarger v. State of Indiana, 90S02-1603-CR-157.