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COA affirms denial of timber buyer’s petition for post-conviction relief

September 26, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals found Monday that a Washington County timber buyer failed to prove that he was not guilty of illegally purchasing timber and, thus, is not entitled to post-conviction relief.

In September 2009, Jon Arnold pleaded guilty to purchasing timber without a registration certificate, a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence. In June 2015, Arnold filed for post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective counsel.

Specifically, Arnold said his counsel overlooked defenses that would have likely changed the outcome of the proceedings in Washington Circuit Court, including that under state statute, his actions did not meet the definition of a timber buyer. During the post-conviction hearing, Arnold’s trial counsel testified that he had incorrectly assumed Arnold was guilty and, had he not made that assumption, he would have advised Arnold differently during the court proceedings.

However, in its Monday opinion in the case of Jon A. Arnold v. State of Indiana, 88A01-1603-PC-677, the Court of Appeals wrote that Arnold did not meet his burden of proving that a defense overlooked by his trial counsel would likely have changed the outcome of the proceeding.

Further, the court wrote that Indiana Code defines a timber buyer as “a person who engages in the business of buying timber by exerting control over the sale of the timber.”

During the post-conviction hearings, Connie Burton and Chad Anderson each testified that they had made agreements with Arnold that he would cut timber on Burton’s property, sell the timber to sawmills and split the profits on a 50/50 basis. Arnold did not present evidence that anyone other than himself negotiated the sale of the timber, the court wrote.

Additionally, Arnold did not challenge evidence that the timber he had cut and logged from Burton’s property was sold to the Worley saw mill in New Pekin, Indiana, and he did not present evidence that he did not select which or how much timber was cut.

Thus, the court wrote that Arnold failed to establish that he did not “exert control over the sale of the timber.”  Based on the evidence, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.
 

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