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State v. Wisdom

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 11, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
CHRISTINA ROSE WISDOM, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 30

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Timothy L. Hansen, District Judge.

         District Court's restitution order, affirmed.

          Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett, LLP, Boise, for appellant. Deborah Whipple argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Mark Olson, Deputy Attorney General, argued.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         This appeal concerns a restitution award an Ada County District Court entered under Idaho Code section 19-5304. The award requires Christina Wisdom to pay $11, 069.82 for counseling services for the victim of her crime. Wisdom appealed the award to the Idaho Court of Appeals, which vacated the award for lack of causation. We granted the State's timely petition for review, and we affirm the district court.


         In November 2013, Wisdom pled guilty to one count of injury to a child. That plea is based on Wisdom allowing her husband, Ronald Wisdom, to access Wisdom's daughter, M.L., who was born in a prior marriage, despite knowing that Ronald had previously sexually abused M.L. Wisdom first learned of Ronald's abuse shortly after it first occurred in 2007. At that time, M.L. told Wisdom of Ronald's abuse. Wisdom instructed M.L. "not to tell anyone . . . and that [Wisdom] would figure things out." Wisdom, however, took no action. As a result, Ronald continued abusing M.L. until authorities intervened in 2013.

         Ronald was indicted on three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under age sixteen. A jury convicted him on all three counts, and the "district court imposed concurrent unified 40-year sentences with 20 years fixed on each charge." The district court ordered Ronald to pay $11, 069.82 in restitution for M.L.'s counseling, payable to Idaho Medicaid State Operations.

         At Wisdom's sentencing, the State requested Ronald's restitution award be jointly and severally assessed against Wisdom. She made two objections. First, Wisdom argued the State had failed to establish her conduct caused M.L.'s injury. Second, Wisdom argued she could not repay the award. The district court rejected both objections and entered the award.

         Wisdom appealed, and the Idaho Court of Appeals vacated the award for lack of causation. The State timely petitioned for review to this Court.


         1. Is Idaho Medicaid State Operations a "victim" eligible for restitution?

         2. Did the State prove causation?

         3. Does the restitution award constitute an abuse of discretion?


         When addressing a petition for review, this Court will give "serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the decision of the lower court." State v. Schall, 157 Idaho 488, 491, 337 P.3d 647, 650 (2014) (citation omitted). "[W]hether to order restitution, and in what amount, is within the district court's discretion and is guided by consideration of the factors set forth in Idaho Code section 19-5304(7)." State v. Corbus, 150 Idaho 599, 602, 249 P.3d 398, 401 (2011) (citing State v. Richmond, 137 Idaho 35, 37, 43 P.3d 794, 796 (Ct. App. 2002)). To determine whether the district court abused its discretion, this Court evaluates whether the district court: (1) correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) acted within the outer boundaries of its discretion and consistently with relevant legal standards; and (3) reached its decision by an exercise of reason. Swallow v. Emergency Med. of Idaho, P.A., 138 Idaho 589, 592, 67 P.3d 68, 71 (2003). The second and third requirements of that inquiry require the district court to base the restitution award on the preponderance of evidence submitted by the prosecutor, defendant, victim, or presentence investigator. I.C. § 19-5304(6). What amount of restitution to award is a question of fact for the district court, whose findings will not be disturbed if supported by substantial evidence. Corbus, 150 Idaho at 602, 249 P.3d at 401. Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." State v. Straub, 153 Idaho 882, 885, 292 P.3d 273, 276 (2013); see also State v. Nelson, slip op. 44177 at 6-7 (Feb. 27, 2017) (holding that unsworn representations on prosecution expenses did not constitute substantial evidence to support an award of restitution for prosecution expenses "actually incurred").

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Wisdom offers three main arguments to contend the restitution award is improper. First is that Idaho Medicaid State Operations is not a "victim" eligible for restitution. Second is that the State failed to prove Wisdom caused M.L.'s injury. Third is that the restitution award constitutes an abuse of discretion due to Wisdom's financial circumstances.

         A. Wisdom failed to preserve whether Idaho Medicaid State Operations is a "victim" eligible for restitution.

         Wisdom maintains that the district court erred by awarding restitution to Idaho Medicaid State Operations (IMSO) because the State presented no evidence that IMSO is a "victim" eligible for restitution under Idaho Code section 19-5304(1)(e). Wisdom did not raise this argument below, but she contends it is preserved ...

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