LeBeau v. State

Citation337 P.3d 254,2014 UT 39
Decision Date19 September 2014
Docket NumberNo. 20120829.,20120829.
PartiesAndrew LeBEAU, Petitioner, v. STATE of Utah, Respondent.
CourtSupreme Court of Utah

337 P.3d 254
2014 UT 39

Andrew LeBEAU, Petitioner
STATE of Utah, Respondent.

No. 20120829.

Supreme Court of Utah.

Sept. 19, 2014.

337 P.3d 256

Joan C. Watt, Brittany D. Enniss, Salt Lake City, for petitioner.

Sean D. Reyes, Att'y Gen., Jeanne B. Inouye, Asst. Att'y Gen., Salt Lake City, for respondent.

Justice PARRISH authored the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice DURRANT, Associate Chief Justice NEHRING, and Justice DURHAM joined.

Justice LEE filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice PARRISH, opinion of the court:


¶ 1 On certiorari, petitioner Andrew LeBeau asks us to consider whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the district court's imposition of a sentence of life without the possibility of parole following Mr. LeBeau's conviction for aggravated kidnapping pursuant to Utah Code section 76–5–302. Mr. LeBeau's conviction stems from a domestic dispute triggered by Mr. LeBeau's suspicion that his then-girlfriend, Stephanie, was engaged in an affair with another man. At trial, Mr. LeBeau was convicted of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and cruelty to an animal.1 The district court imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for the aggravated kidnapping conviction, which was to run consecutively to Mr. LeBeau's lesser sentences for the other convictions.

¶ 2 Mr. LeBeau unsuccessfully challenged his sentence of LWOP before the court of appeals. He now argues that the court of appeals erred when it affirmed the district court's imposition of LWOP because the district court failed to properly consider whether the interests of justice warranted a lesser sentence as allowed for in Utah's aggravated kidnapping statute. Because we conclude that the district court improperly applied the sentencing provisions of section 76–5–302 of the Utah Code, we reverse Mr. LeBeau's sentence of LWOP and remand for new sentencing.


¶ 3 In early 2009, Mr. LeBeau and Stephanie were living together, but they were experiencing trouble in their relationship. Stephanie had moved out of their shared home for a period of time before returning and, according to Mr. LeBeau, had been unfaithful during the relationship. Both Stephanie and Mr. LeBeau struggled with drug addiction. In early February, Stephanie moved out of the couple's shared bedroom but continued to live in the house.

¶ 4 The couple was acquainted with a man named Mark, from whom they occasionally purchased drugs. In February 2009, Mr. LeBeau began to suspect that Stephanie was having an affair with Mark. On February 23, 2009, Stephanie spent the afternoon and evening with Mark. Mr. LeBeau repeatedly called Stephanie and sent her text messages,

337 P.3d 257

but she ignored him. When Stephanie returned home sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 that night, Mr. LeBeau angrily confronted her about where she had been. Stephanie testified that Mr. LeBeau became violent when she refused to explain where she had been and began hitting and choking her.

¶ 5 As the argument escalated, Mr. LeBeau forced Stephanie to accompany him to the garage, where he threatened to bind her with duct tape and continued to behave violently. Mr. LeBeau placed his dog in the back seat of Stephanie's car before forcing Stephanie to get into the front seat, telling her they were going for a “fast ride.” Mr. LeBeau then got into the driver's seat and began to drive toward Mark's house.

¶ 6 As Mr. LeBeau drove, he attracted the attention of Sergeant Marcelas Rapela of the Midvale Police Department. Sergeant Rapela began to follow the couple's car, ultimately signaling Mr. LeBeau to stop with lights and siren. Stephanie testified that she repeatedly asked Mr. LeBeau to pull over. Rather than stopping, Mr. LeBeau continued toward Mark's house. Mr. LeBeau initially turned onto Mark's street heading in the wrong direction. While turning the car around, Mr. LeBeau nearly crashed into Sergeant Rapela's patrol car and accelerated rapidly toward Mark's house.

¶ 7 As the car accelerated, Stephanie opened the passenger door in an attempt to jump from the car. Officer David Wilson, who had arrived to assist Sergeant Rapela, observed Stephanie's foot dragging along the road as the car accelerated. As the car raced down Mark's street at approximately sixty miles per hour, it collided with Mark's box-style truck, which was parked at the end of the street.

¶ 8 Stephanie was thrown from the car on impact. Officer Wilson testified that he observed Stephanie's body ricochet off the passenger-side door as the collision occurred. Stephanie suffered extensive injuries, including a broken eye socket, fractured femur, fractured pelvis, broken arm, and shattered ankle. Mr. LeBeau's dog was also injured in the crash and required surgery. Mr. LeBeau did not suffer any significant injuries.

¶ 9 The State charged Mr. LeBeau with aggravated kidnapping based on the serious bodily injury Stephanie suffered, attempted murder, aggravated assault, failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop, and cruelty to an animal. Mr. LeBeau pled guilty to failure to respond to an officer's signal and was convicted by a jury of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and cruelty to an animal. Though the State argued at trial that Mr. LeBeau intentionally crashed into Mark's truck in an attempt to kill Stephanie, Mr. LeBeau claimed the collision occurred while he was distracted trying to keep Stephanie from jumping out of the car. The jury acquitted Mr. LeBeau of attempted murder.

¶ 10 At Mr. LeBeau's sentencing hearing, the court determined that the sentencing matrices created by the Utah Sentencing Commission were not applicable to Mr. LeBeau's case because Utah's aggravated kidnapping statute created “a minimum mandatory type sentence.” As a result of this determination, the court began with a presumptive sentence of LWOP and then proceeded to consider whether the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors warranted a reduction in Mr. LeBeau's sentence to one of the statutorily allowed lesser sentences. The court identified two aggravating factors on the record. First, it found that Mr. LeBeau's continued refusal to accept responsibility for his actions was an aggravating factor. Second, the court expressed concern about the serious injuries Stephanie suffered as a result of Mr. LeBeau's conduct.

¶ 11 The court then considered, and rejected, several mitigating factors raised by Mr. LeBeau. First, Mr. LeBeau claimed to have acted under a strong provocation because he believed Stephanie was having an affair with Mark. The court rejected this mitigating factor, stating, “There was no evidence presented that [Stephanie] was having an affair. There was no evidence that she was involved in a sexual relationship.” Second, Mr. LeBeau claimed to have a good employment history and strong family ties, both of which indicate rehabilitative potential. The court rejected Mr. LeBeau's claim relating to his employment history, stating, “You were unemployed

337 P.3d 258

at the time of this incident. I don't know how you can say that was exceptionally good employment.” Similarly, the court refused to consider Mr. LeBeau's family ties as a mitigating factor because Mr. LeBeau had not “seen [his] mother or ... sister for years at the time they came to testify at trial.” Finally, Mr. LeBeau claimed that he had an extended period of arrest-free time prior to this incident. The court rejected this mitigating factor because Mr. LeBeau had an outstanding arrest warrant in Alabama and had admitted to using illegal drugs during that time period. The court found that the fact that Mr. LeBeau had not been arrested for, nor convicted of, an offense for several years prior to this incident did not necessarily mean that Mr. LeBeau had been law abiding. The court thus refused to consider Mr. LeBeau's relatively minor criminal history a mitigating factor.2

¶ 12 After weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the district court found that the aggravating circumstances were “substantial” and the mitigating circumstances “almost non-existent.” It then imposed LWOP for the aggravated kidnapping conviction, the most severe sentence allowed under Utah Code section 76–5–302. The court also sentenced Mr. LeBeau to zero to five years for both the aggravated assault and failure-to-respond convictions. Finally, the court imposed a suspended sentence of 180 days for the cruelty-to-an-animal conviction and ordered Mr. LeBeau's lesser sentences to run consecutively with his LWOP sentence.

¶ 13 Mr. LeBeau timely appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in imposing a sentence of LWOP for his aggravated kidnapping conviction. State v. Lebeau, 2012 UT App 235, ¶ 16, 286 P.3d 1. Specifically, Mr. LeBeau argued that the district court failed to adequately consider the interests of justice, as required by Utah Code section 76–5–302(4). See infra ¶ 24. According to Mr. LeBeau, the district court abused its discretion by (1) failing to consider as a mitigating factor that Mr. LeBeau acted under provocation, (2) failing to give adequate weight to Mr. LeBeau's family support and employment history, (3) failing to credit Mr. LeBeau...

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