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Supreme Court remands child molesting case for resentencing

July 21, 2017

A man who pleaded guilty to molesting his girlfriend’s son and was sentenced to 40 years in prison will return to court for resentencing. The Indiana Supreme Court determined Friday that the trial court considered an incorrect statutory sentencing range.

After Rodney McGuire’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend ended, the girlfriend’s son, B.P., reported that McGuire had repeatedly molested him, beginning when he was 8 or 9 years old. McGuire agreed to plead guilty to one count of Class A felony child molesting, and all parties agreed the statutory sentencing range for the crime was 30 to 50 years.

The Cass Circuit Court sentenced McGuire to 40 years in the Department of Correction, but McGuire appealed, arguing his sentence was based on a mistaken understanding of the minimum sentence. In a Friday per curiam opinion, the justices wrote the parties now agree the statutory sentencing range was 20 to 50 years, with an advisory sentence of 30 years.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed McGuire’s 40-year sentence in a February memorandum decision, operating on the presumption that the parties relied on Indiana Code 35-50-2-2(i). That statute allowed the trial court to suspend only the portion of McGuire’s sentence exceeding 30 years because he was over the age of 21 and B.P. was younger than 12 at the time of the crime. Because the trial court chose to impose an enhanced sentence, the appellate court determined it could “‘say with confidence that the trial court would have imposed the same sentence’ had it properly considered the facts and law applicable to the case.”

McGuire then sought transfer in Rodney J. McGuire v. State of Indiana, 09S02-1707-CR-491, which the high court granted Friday when it remanded his case for resentencing. In the opinion, a majority of the justices wrote that while I.C. 35-50-2-2(i) allowed the suspension of McGuire’s sentence in excess of 30 years, it did not change the minimum sentence from 20 to 30 years.

Justice Mark Massa, however, dissented, writing in a separate opinion that he concurs completely with the Court of Appeals’ assessment that the trial court would have imposed the same sentence had it properly considered the facts and law. Because he agreed with that assessment, Massa said he could not join in “ordering an unnecessary remand.”

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