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STATE OF KANSAS v. ROGER BRYAN SCHMIDT
Case Number: 119,354
Judge: Before GARDNER, P.J., GREEN and ATCHESON, JJ.
Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF KANSAS
Plaintiff's Attorney: Rachel L. Pickering, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general
Defendant's Attorney: Peter Maharry, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office
On May 15, 2017, Schmidt pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a severity level 5 felony, and aggravated child endangerment, a severity level 9 felony. Because Schmidt had a criminal history score of B, he faced presumptive prison sentences for both offenses.
Before his sentencing hearing, Schmidt moved for a dispositional departure to probation. In the motion, Schmidt explained that he completed inpatient drug treatment before enrolling in a sober living community called the Omega Project, where he lived for the past year. He wrote: "Since being in the program, the Defendant has consistently tested clean on court-ordered drug tests. He would happily test anywhere or anytime to show that he has maintained his sobriety."
He also wrote that:
"If the Defendant is granted probation, he will continue in the Omega Project. The Defendant did not sink into addiction overnight and he knows that addiction is not something that is magically cured. He knows that he must work daily at staying sober and making choices. The Omega Project has been the best thing in his life to help him make those changes. He wants to be part of his son's life. He wants to help others gain and maintain a sober life."
At the August 9, 2017 sentencing hearing, Schmidt testified and called several character witnesses to testify in support of his departure motion as well.
Schmidt testified that at the Omega Project, there are "strict rules regarding abstinence from drugs and alcohol," there is "no using," and participants are "held very
accountable towards everything we do." Schmidt's attorney asked, "What makes today different when you tell the Court, um, I'm—I'm done with drugs and I will not use substances again?" Schmidt responded that "it's been such a long hard road. With the drug[s] and everything. I don't know, I—I was tired of it before I was arrested. I was begging God to get me out of it. And he answered my prayers." He stated that he wanted to spend at least another year in the Omega Project "just to solidify what I started." Finally, Schmidt told the trial court judge that she "will not regret it" if she granted his dispositional departure to probation.
The director of the Omega Project testified that Schmidt had been successful at the Omega Project. He testified that "success" in the program included not using drugs as well as a "full lifestyle change." He stated that Schmidt had been in the program for over a year and that the Omega Project has an 80 to 90% success rate for participants who have been in the program for a year or longer. He further stated that he was "not aware of any issues" Schmidt had in the program and that Schmidt had done well. Finally, an Omega Project house leader testified. He testified that Schmidt had no issues in the program, including no relapses that he was aware of.
During argument, Schmidt's attorney, Julie Effenbeck, stated that "he's had more than a year now—way more than a year of sobriety and of making changes that I think are—are true changes for him to make." The attorney asked the court "to give him a chance at this. Um, if he screws up, he certainly can go to prison on a motion to revoke." She further argued that "I do believe that Roger has—has made a change that I think is going to be an everlast—an everlasting change."
The State opposed a dispositional departure.
The trial court sentenced Schmidt to 34 months for possession of methamphetamine and 7 months for aggravated child endangerment. Nevertheless, the
trial court judge granted Schmidt a dispositional departure to 12 months of probation. The judge noted that Schmidt had tried and failed at drug treatment before, but she stated that "this time it appears that you have made changes for the right reasons."
On August 9, 2017, the same day as the sentencing hearing, the State moved to revoke Schmidt's probation. The State alleged that Schmidt submitted to a urinalysis (UA) on August 9, 2017, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Schmidt signed an admission of usage stating he had used meth on August 5, 2017, four days before the sentencing hearing.
The trial court held a probation revocation hearing on September 6, 2017. Schmidt's attorney argued that the State could not revoke Schmidt's probation for drug use because the drug use happened on August 5, 2017, before Schmidt was placed on probation on August 9, 2017. Schmidt's attorney asked that the trial court allow Schmidt to stay on probation and consider the 30 days he served in jail between the State's motion to revoke and the probation hearing as the appropriate sanction.
The State responded that even though Schmidt was not on probation when he used methamphetamine, he was out on bond and a condition of his bond was abstinence from drugs. The State argued that the trial court should revoke Schmidt's probation because it was induced to grant the dispositional departure because Schmidt falsely claimed that he was clean. The trial court found that Schmidt had been "untruthful on purpose" to get a dispositional departure. As a result, the trial court revoked Schmidt's probation.
Did the Trial Court Err by Revoking Schmidt's Probation?
Schmidt argues that this court must reverse the trial court's ruling to revoke his probation because the trial court effectively punished him for conduct that predated his probation. The State argues that the trial court was correct to revoke Schmidt's probation
because Schmidt had lied about being clean and that the trial court had relied on this misrepresentation when granting him probation.
Standard of Review
"Two standards of review are applicable to probation revocation cases. In determining whether a sanction was authorized by statute, we exercise de novo review, because statutory interpretation is a question of law. See State v. Rocha, 30 Kan. App. 2d 817, 819, 48 P.3d 683 (2002). If revocation is an allowable disposition under the statute, the decision whether to revoke is within the discretion of the district court and we will reverse only if the court abused that discretion. Rocha, 30 Kan. App. 2d at 819. A judicial action constitutes an abuse of discretion if (1) no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court; (2) it is based on an error of fact; or (3) it is based on an error of law. State v. Marshall, 303 Kan. 438, 445, 362 P.3d 587 (2015)." State v. Patton, No. 117,115, 2018 WL 1247192, at *2 (Kan. App. 2018) (unpublished opinion), rev. denied 308 Kan. 1599 (2018).
Further, when this court must review the trial court's findings of fact, it reviews them for substantial competent evidence. State v. Weber, 297 Kan. 805, 816, 304 P.3d 1262 (2013). Substantial competent evidence is relevant and legal evidence that a reasonable person could consider adequate to support a conclusion. State v. May, 293 Kan. 858, 862, 269 P.3d 1260 (2012).
Schmidt argues that this case is like State v. Gary, 282 Kan. 232, 144 P.3d 634 (2006). There, Gary committed a new crime between his conviction and sentencing. When the State later charged Gary with that crime, the State also moved to revoke his probation in the first case. Our Supreme Court held that "Gary's conduct prior to sentencing did not constitute a violation of the terms of his probation and therefore cannot be the basis for revoking that probation under Kansas law." 282 Kan. at 241. Gary was not yet on probation when he committed the second crime and, thus, could not have violated the terms of his probation at that time.
Nevertheless, the Gary court recognized that a trial court may revoke a defendant's probation without evidence of a probation violation if the trial court finds that the defendant made affirmative misrepresentations to the court to induce the court to grant him or her probation. 282 Kan. at 242. On this issue, the Gary court cited a previous Kansas Supreme Court decision, Swope v. Musser, 223 Kan. 133, 573 P.2d 587 (1977), which referred to a situation like this as a "revocation" of a defendant's probation although it did not fall under K.S.A. 22-3716. The Swope court explained:
"'[W]hen misrepresentations have been made to the court by or on behalf of a defendant at the time of granting probation which misrepresentations were a basis for granting probation in the first place, the prior misrepresentations may be grounds for revocation. [Citation omitted.] It has also been held that probation may be revoked for fraudulent concealment of facts and circumstances existing at the time of the hearing at which probation is granted.' [Citation omitted.] 223 Kan. at 136." Gary, 282 Kan. at 242.
Since the Gary decision, this court has issued two unpublished opinions addressing the issue of probation revocation based on a defendant's affirmative misrepresentation at sentencing. The first was State v. McCartney, No. 95,591, 2007 WL 1309606 (Kan. App. 2007) (unpublished opinion). There, McCartney requested that the sentencing court grant him probation on his drug convictions because "'[t]he one trip of me going to Coffeeville [sic] and using drugs cost me about everything, cost me my job, my sobriety, and almost my family.'" 2007 WL 1309606, at *1. McCartney "represented his offense as isolated and that he sincerely sought redemption." 2007 WL 1309606, at *1. The court sentenced McCartney to probation.
Several months later, McCartney violated his probation; he was held in the county jail until a residential drug treatment program spot was available. While in jail, McCartney wrote a letter to his fiancée's ex-husband providing "detailed instructions, including a diagram, for making methamphetamine" and stating that once he was back
out of jail, he would help the recipient make methamphetamine. 2007 WL 1309606, at *1. The State did not discover this letter until after the trial court reinstated McCartney's probation on September 30, 2005. After the State discovered the letter, the trial court revoked McCartney's probation. The trial court stated that it believed McCartney had lied at the probation violation hearing "regarding the underlying crime being an isolated event." 2007 WL 1309606, at *3.
On appeal, this court affirmed the trial court's revocation of McCartney's probation. This court held that McCartney affirmatively misrepresented himself at the probation violation hearing when he "represented to the district court that the drug use which led to revocation of his probation on September 30 was a one-time event." 2007 WL 1309606, at *4.
Later, in 2012, this court decided State v. Lucas, No. 105,654, 2012 WL 1970067 (Kan. App. 2012) (unpublished opinion). There, Lucas pleaded guilty to eight counts of forgery. He moved for a dispositional departure to probation, arguing, among other things, that he was "employed full-time by Sough Central Steel Erectors" and the employer supported his request for probation. Lucas included a letter from the employer with his motion. The trial court granted Lucas probation. 2012 WL 1970067, at *1.
Two months later, the State moved to revoke Lucas' probation. The State alleged that Lucas had lied about his employment. At the probation revocation hearing, the State produced evidence that no company called "South Central Steel Erectors" was registered in Kansas. Further, the State had the owner of a company named "South Central Erectors" testify; he testified that the company never employed Lucas. Further, the owner testified that the man who signed Lucas' letter had previously worked for the company, but he was not authorized to write this letter on behalf of the company. The trial court found that Lucas had affirmatively misrepresented his employment status and that he did
so in order to persuade the court to grant him probation. Accordingly, the trial court revoked Lucas' probation.
On appeal, this court affirmed the trial court's revocation of Lucas' probation. This court determined that "sufficient evidence from which a reasonable person could conclude that the district court relied on Lucas' misrepresentation about current employment in deciding to grant probation." 2012 WL 1970067, at *3.
Here, the State argues that Schmidt affirmatively misrepresented to the court that he was no longer using drugs to secure a dispositional departure. On the other hand, Schmidt contends that he "did not make any affirmative misrepresentations that would allow the district court to revoke his probation."
Schmidt's representations to the trial court, however, taken together, amount to an affirmative representation that he had refrained from drug use while at the Omega Project. First, in his departure motion, he wrote: "Since being in the program, the Defendant has consistently tested clean on court-ordered drug tests. He would happily test anywhere or anytime to show that he has maintained his sobriety."
Then, at the revocation hearing, Schmidt's attorney asked, "What makes today different when you tell the Court, um, I'm—I'm done with drugs and I will not use substances again?" Schmidt responded that "It's been such a long hard road. With the drug and everything. I don't know, I—I was tired of it before I was arrested. I was begging God to get me out of it. And he answered my prayers." The trial court could and apparently did understand this to mean that Schmidt was "done with drugs" and would not use substances again, since Schmidt stated that he begged God to get him out of it, and God "answered [his] prayers."
Finally, during argument, Schmidt's attorney stated that Schmidt "had more than a year now—way more than a year of sobriety and of making changes that I think are—are true changes for him to make." This statement expressly represented that Schmidt was sober and had been sober for more than a year.
The trial court relied on these false misrepresentations of sobriety to grant Schmidt a dispositional departure. The judge pointed out that Schmidt had tried and failed at drug treatment before, but she stated that "this time it appears that you have made changes for the right reasons." In deciding to grant Schmidt probation, the trial court relied at least in part on Schmidt's misrepresentation that he had "made changes." Thus, sufficient evidence exists to support the trial court's factual determination that Schmidt affirmatively misrepresented his sobriety in order to induce the court to grant him probation.
Finally, we must consider whether the trial court judge improperly revoked Schmidt's probation for his drug use occurring on August 5, 2017, four days before he was granted probation on August 9, 2017, or whether the trial judge revoked his probation for fraudulently misrepresenting his sobriety or lack of drug use for the 18 months leading up to the sentencing hearing on August 9, 2017, as a means of persuading the trial court to grant his probation request.
At the revocation hearing on September 6, 2017, the trial court judge stated the following:
"The real issue here today is what we do, whether you are allowed to continue on probation or whether the underlying sentence of 41 months with Department of Corrections should be imposed. "Last month we had a long hearing. You told this Court and you presented witnesses to testify on your behalf, how well the Omega Program had worked for you.
"That you had worked that program for 18 months and remained clean. And I guess you were fearful of going to prison that day at sentencing and that's why you used four days before. "I can only believe that your testimony before this Court was untruthful on purpose, that it was to avoid prison and that this was not a simple act or relapse after you began probation."
Here, the trial court judge explicitly acknowledged that Schmidt's admitted drug usage occurred four days before his probation began on August 9, 2017. Indeed, the trial court judge specifically noted that Schmidt's admitted drug usage of methamphetamine "was not a simple act of relapse after [he] began probation." Significantly, the trial court judge observed: "And I guess you were fearful of going to prison that day at sentencing and that's why you used four days before." Then the trial court observed: "I can only believe that your testimony before this Court was untruthful on purpose, that it was to avoid prison . . . ."
Although the trial court stated that there was a preponderance of evidence that Schmidt violated the conditions of his probation granted on August 9, 2017, we determine that the trial court judge concluded that she was revoking Schmidt's probation because he had lied and deceived the court about his nondrug usage to persuade the court to grant his probation request.
Outcome: Schmidt did not object to the trial court's findings below. "When no objection is made to the adequacy of the district court's findings, we can presume the district court found all facts necessary to support its judgment. Supreme Court Rule 165(b) (2014 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 272); Dragon v. Vanguard Industries, 282 Kan. 349, 356, 144 P.3d 1279 (2006)." State v. Dern, 303 Kan. 384, 394, 362 P.3d 566 (2015). Accordingly, we affirm.