Even though a man whose guilty plea in a domestic violence case contained no terms requiring him to participate in anger management classes, a court that ordered them as a term of probation was within its rights to do so, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
Corey Desean Coleman appealed the order that he complete classes in anger management and conflict resolution after he was convicted of Level 6 felony strangulation for assaulting the mother of his children. In exchange for his guilty plea, the state dropped charges of Level 5 felony domestic battery and Level 6 felony kidnapping resulting from his attack on his ex-girlfriend at her Indianapolis home that spilled into the front yard.
Coleman punched his ex several times, knocked her to the ground and “placed his hands around her throat — impeding her ability to breathe or talk,” Senior Judge Carr Darden wrote for the appellate panel. The ex-girlfriend managed to escape and call police, who arrived on the scene in the early-morning hours of May 4, 2019, and arrested Coleman. The victim received treatment at the hospital.
After Coleman pleaded guilty to strangulation in Marion Superior Court, his counsel objected at sentencing when the court ordered anger management classes as a condition of his sentence of two years suspended to probation. Defense counsel noted Coleman’s plea agreement contained no terms of anger management, but the court overruled the objection.
“The Court has discretion as to what conditions of probation to impose,” the trial judge said. “Okay, he’s got about five domestic violence arrests and I don’t want to see him back here for that again. That’s all.”’
The Court of Appeals agreed, rejecting the appeal in Corey Desean Coleman v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-817.
“Here, the better practice would have been for the trial court to inform the parties of its desire to impose a condition on Coleman’s probation before accepting the plea agreement,” the panel wrote, noting courts are not bound by the terms of plea agreements. “This course of action may have led to a thorough discussion between the trial court and the parties, as well as clarification of the terms of the plea agreement, such that the trial court may not have accepted the plea agreement had it realized that its decision was questionable or rejected as a condition on Coleman’s probation.
“Nevertheless, under the particular facts and circumstances herein, we conclude that the trial court’s imposition of anger management or conflict resolution classes as a condition of probation did not amount to an additional punitive obligation of his sentence,” the panel held. “… (T)he trial court was within its discretion to impose a probation condition requiring Coleman to participate in anger management or conflict resolution classes despite such condition not having been specified in Coleman’s plea agreement.”
The panel also by separate order denied Coleman’s motion to strike the state’s citations to the probable cause affidavit regarding the underlying criminal charges. The court noted strict rules of evidence regarding hearsay do not apply to sentencing hearings and the COA’s review of his sentence did not rely on facts Coleman raised or disputed.