Molest sentence, convictions reduced due to late amended charges

The sentence of a man convicted of child molesting was reduced and some of his convictions were vacated Monday by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found the filing of top-level felony counts two weeks before the trial began was an abuse of discretion.

Chad Hobbs’ convictions and corresponding sentence for Class A felony and Level 1 felony counts of child molesting were vacated, and his sentence reduced from 70 years to an aggregate 44 years in prison in Chad P. Hobbs v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-909.

Hobbs was convicted last year after a four-day jury trial in Madison Circuit Court. While the appellate court rejected his claims regarding sufficiency of the evidence, improper vouching testimony and that his sentence was inappropriate, the panel held the trial court had abused its discretion by allowing a late amendment of the criminal charges.

“Fourteen days before trial and three years after the omnibus date, the trial court allowed the State, over (Hobbs’) objection, to amend the charging information to include three new counts of child molesting. While the new charges involved the same victims, the State added a Class A felony child molesting charge relating to one of the victims for a time period that was not previously charged and a Level 1 felony child-molesting charge relating to the other victim when the prior charging information set forth only a Level 4 felony child-molesting charge for her,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel.

“Finding the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to amend the charging information so close to trial without also granting a continuance, we reverse Hobbs’s convictions on the added counts and remand with instructions for the court to vacate those convictions and the corresponding sentences. We affirm the trial court in all other respects.”

The panel rejected Hobbs’ argument that because he had no criminal history, his sentences should be served concurrently rather than consecutively. But finding that Hobbs molested each of his victims repeatedly “supports consecutive sentences totaling forty-four years,” the panel concluded.

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