Double jeopardy rights weren’t violated in aggravated battery case, but credit was miscalculated

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A man who was convicted for the death of his infant son didn’t have his double jeopardy rights violated when both of his charges were elevated to Level 1 felonies, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed. But the appellate court reversed the man’s sentencing order for an improper calculation of time served and good time credit.

Michael Gaunt was charged in December 2019 with aggravated battery to a child less than age 14 and neglect of a dependent. The charges stemmed from an incident when Gaunt was watching his infant son, L.G., while the mother, Harley Jones, was out of the house.

When Jones returned, she saw Gaunt holding L.G., who appeared naked, lifeless, blue and not breathing. Gaunt wouldn’t let Jones call 911 for about 45 minutes.

Emergency responders took L.G. to the hospital, where he was alive but unresponsive. L.G. was diagnosed with fractures in his right humerus and clavicle, “massive retinal hemorrhages,” hemorrhages between his brain and skull and within his brain, and swelling around his neck vertebrae. Physicians attributed the injuries to “[s]evere physical abuse including abusive head trauma.”

Gaunt was arrested Dec. 21, 2019, and L.G. died two days later.

Both charges against Gaunt were elevated to Level 1 felonies based on L.G.’s death.

On Jan. 28, 2022, Gaunt and the state executed a plea agreement, and the Marion Superior Court set a sentencing hearing for the next month. The presentencing investigation report showed Gaunt had been in jail since Dec. 21, 2019, and would have served 790 actual jail days by the time the trial court held the Feb. 17, 2022, sentencing hearing.

Gaunt withdrew his plea agreement at the sentencing hearing.

The Marion Superior Court held a bench trial on April 25, 2022, and found Gaunt guilty of both counts. The court then set a sentencing hearing for June 23, 2022.

The state filed a second presentencing investigation report, which showed Gaunt would have served 916 actual days as of the court’s June 23 sentencing hearing.

The court sentenced Gaunt to two concurrent 35-year sentences, each with two years to be served in community corrections and three years suspended to probation. The court’s sentencing order reflects that Gaunt had been in jail since April 24, 2020, had served 790 actual days and had earned 263 days of good time credit.

Gaunt appealed, arguing the trial court erred by elevating both of his convictions to Level 1 felonies because doing so constituted double jeopardy given that both were in relation to L.G.’s death.

The Court of Appeals disagreed.

In its opinion, the court cites two Indiana Supreme Court cases — Wadle v. State, 151 N.E.3d 227 (Ind. 2020), and Powell v. State, 151 N.E.3d 256, 262 (Ind. 2020) — that lay out the framework for analyzing whether a defendant’s convictions violate principles of substantive double jeopardy.

Gaunt maintained that elevating both of his convictions constitutes double jeopardy under one of the common-law rules identified in another case — Richardson v. State, 717 N.E.2d 32 (Ind. 1999) — but the court’s opinion notes Wadle and Powell overruled Richardson.

The court applied the Wadle test to affirm the convictions.

The opinion states Gaunt “might have been entitled to relief under the common-law elevation rule” he cited, but the court agreed with the state that in overruling Richardson, Wadle also replaced the common-law double jeopardy rules with its own test.

“Accordingly, we cannot consider Gaunt’s reliance on the common-law elevation rule,” the opinion states. “Further, because Gaunt raises no argument that his convictions constitute double jeopardy under Wadle, we cannot say that Gaunt’s double jeopardy rights were violated.”

Gaunt also argued the trial court erred by only giving credit for 790 actual days and 263 days of good time credit at the time of sentencing. He said he is entitled to a credit of 916 actual days and 305 days of good time credit.

Here, the Court of Appeals agreed, as did the state.

“The trial court appears to have found that Gaunt was only entitled to credit for 790 actual days based on the February PSI report, but that PSI report was outdated by the time Gaunt was sentenced on June 23, 2022,” the opinion states. “We cannot discern why the trial court found that Gaunt was in jail only since April 24, 2020.”

The Court of Appeals also agreed Gaunt should have been assigned to Class B credit time classification and was entitled to one day of good time credit for every three days of the 915 actual days he served awaiting trial, which amounts to 305 days of good time credit.

The COA thus remanded with instructions that the trial court’s sentencing order reflect Gaunt’s presentencing credit time to reflect those numbers.

Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote the opinion. Judges Nancy Vaidik and Peter Foley concurred.

The case is Michael Charles Thomas Gaunt v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-1632.

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