State v. Ford

Decision Date20 August 2012
Docket NumberC.A. P2-05-0083A
PartiesSTATE OF RHODE ISLAND v. JOHN FORD
CourtRhode Island Superior Court

DECISION

CARNES, J.

Before this Court is John Ford's (hereafter the "Defendant") Motion for Conditional Release and his Motion to Terminate Imprisonment. After a hearing, the Defendant was adjudged by a justice of this Court to be a violator of his probationary sentence in P2-05-0083A. The conduct that warranted his being presented as a violator of his probation was also the same conduct that resulted in criminal charges being filed against him by the Warwick Police Department. The Defendant was sentenced to thirty months imprisonment. After being sentenced, the Defendant contested the new charges, and the matter proceeded to trial. After a trial, the Defendant was found not guilty of the charges. Defendant now seeks release from his term of imprisonment for the probation violation. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-36 and G.L. 1956 § 12-19-18(b).

I Facts and Travel

Initially on August 22, 2005, the Defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere in case number P2-05-0083A, to charges of reckless driving and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The Defendant was sentenced to ten years with eighteen months to serve at the Adult Correctional Institute ("ACI.") The remaining time was suspended along with probation. On January 8, 2007, the Defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere in case number P2-06-3481A to charges of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and driving with an expired license. The Defendant was sentenced to five years with two years to be served at the ACI. The remaining three years were suspended along with probation. On August 26, 2009, the Defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere in case number P2-09-0917A, to charges of felony assault and possession of a controlled substance. The Defendant was sentenced to five years with six months to serve at the ACI. The remaining time was suspended with probation.

Most recently, on October 28, 2010, the Warwick Police Department filed a criminal complaint against the Defendant. The day before, the Defendant was arrested for domestic assault and domestic disorderly conduct. At the time of his arrest by the Warwick Police, the Defendant was on probation for the aforementioned charges. As a result, the Attorney General's Office filed a report with this Court pursuant to Rule 32(f) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure moving to revoke the Defendant's probation. See Super. R. Crim. P. 32(f) ("the State shall furnish the defendant and the court with a written statement specifying the grounds upon which action is sought under this subdivision"). The report filed by the Attorney General stated that the "Defendant did fail to comply with a specific condition of probation in that he/she failed to keep the peace and be of good behavior." See Def.'s Ex. A.

The Defendant requested a hearing to contest the probation revocation, which was held over the course of two days in the winter of 2011.[1] At the hearing, the Attorney General alleged that the Defendant had failed to keep the peace and be of good behavior because the Defendant assaulted his girlfriend, Tina Bartholomew ("Bartholomew"), and the Defendant engaged in fighting, threatening, violent and/or tumultuous behavior in the presence of Bartholomew. The Defendant contested the allegations and contended that he was assaulted by Bartholomew.

At the hearing, both Bartholomew and the Defendant testified. At the close of evidence, the hearing justice was reasonably satisfied that the Defendant had failed to keep the peace and be of good behavior.[2] Consequently, the Defendant was deemed to be a violator of his three previously imposed sentences. The hearing justice removed thirty months from case number P2-05-0083A and ordered the Defendant to serve those thirty months at the ACI. The Defendant was continued on the same sentence for his two other previously imposed sentences.

On August 1, 2011, the Defendant appealed the hearing justice's decision deeming him a violator to our Supreme Court. That matter is presently before that Court for its review. On November 28, 2011, the Defendant was found not guilty by a jury for the charges levied against him by the Warwick Police Department.

Shortly after being found not guilty, the Defendant filed the instant motions with this Court. First, the Defendant asks this Court to release him on bail pending this Court's decision on his Motion to Terminate his sentence. Next, the Defendant asks this Court to terminate the thirty month term of imprisonment after being adjudged a violator of his probation.

II Analysis
A

Defendant's Motion for Conditional Release[3]

The Defendant came before this Court arguing that he should be conditionally released pending this Court's determination of the Defendant's Motion to Terminate Imprisonment pursuant to § 12-19-18(b). However, before the Court could reach the merits of Defendant's motion to be released, the Court needed to determine whether it had jurisdiction over this matter because Defendant appealed the hearing justice's determination that Defendant violated his probation. At the hearing, the Defendant argued that his Motion to Terminate Imprisonment is a further proceeding that is not the subject of his appeal to the Supreme Court. The Attorney General argued that this Court is without jurisdiction to hear this matter because it is a further action that was not contemplated by the hearing justice that adjudged Defendant to be a violator.

In addressing the jurisdiction issue first, the Court determined that it did have jurisdiction to hear Defendant's two motions. The Court's decision rested, in large part, on the Committee Notes to Rules 11 and 12 of the Supreme Court Rules of Appellate Procedure. In 2003, Rules 11 and 12 "were amended to address a concern that, once an appeal or petition for review is docketed in the Supreme Court when there are further proceedings contemplated below, all activity stops in the trial court until the appeal is resolved or the matter is remanded." S.Ct. R., Art. I R. 10, 2003 Comm. Notes. The Committee Notes go on to state that "the trial court proceedings should not automatically cease until the appeal is resolved, " even though the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over the appeal. Regardless of the Supreme Court's exclusive jurisdiction, this Court still retains jurisdiction over matters not involved in the appeal. See id. "Thus, in these circumstances where further proceedings are contemplated in the trial court, the presumption is that those lower court proceedings will continue while the appeal is pending . . . ." Id.

Here the Defendant's motions are not intertwined with the Defendant's appeal before the Supreme Court. The Defendant's appeal rests on the hearing justice's determination that Defendant violated the terms of his probation. The motions before this Court relate to granting Defendant release from prison because he was later acquitted of the charges that triggered the violation. This Court's decision is rendered on a separate basis from any decision that will be rendered by the Supreme Court. Therefore, this Court determined that Defendant's motions are further proceedings, which are separate from the Defendant's appeal.

Furthermore, the Defendant's motion to be released is a further proceeding of the violation that was implicitly contemplated because § 12-19-18(b) was duly enacted[4] at the time of the violation and violation hearing. After the hearing, the Defendant filed an appeal and also proceeded to trial regarding the charges that triggered the violation. When the violation hearing was completed, there was still a potential for the Defendant to file the instant motions based upon a plain reading of § 12-19-18(b). The fact that § 12-19-18(b) was already enacted when the violation was filed put all parties on notice that while a hearing may determine whether the Defendant violated his probation, it did not foreclose the opportunity for the Defendant to have his sentence quashed pursuant to the statute. Therefore, the Defendant's motions are further proceedings that were contemplated in the trial court, and this Court has jurisdiction to hear the Defendant's motions.

Defendant went on to argue that if this Court has jurisdiction, then this Court has the authority to release the Defendant pending the determination of his Motion to Terminate Imprisonment. The State argued that the Defendant should not be conditionally released because § 12-19-18(b) does not articulate any provision granting this Court the authority to conditionally release the Defendant. The Defendant concedes that there is no statutory basis for this Court to set bail or conditionally release that is explicitly set forth in § 12-19-18(b). Instead, the Defendant argues that it is within this Court's inherent authority to grant bail and conditionally release him pending the outcome of his motion.

In State v. Feng, 421 A.2d 1258 (R.I. 1980), our Supreme Court was faced with the issue of whether to grant bail to a defendant while that defendant's post-conviction relief petition was pending in our Supreme Court. The Feng Court determined that the Supreme Court had the authority to grant bail to a defendant however, the Feng Court cautioned that bail should only be granted in exceptional cases. Id. at 1266. In reaching its decision, the Feng Court looked to the inherent powers of the judiciary to determine that the Court had the authority to grant bail to a defendant while appellate review of a post-conviction relief application was pending. The Court in Feng looked at several other jurisdictions and also the history of bail in reaching its decision. The Court determined...

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