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State v. Passons

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 1, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
RUSSELL ALLEN PASSONS, Defendant-Appellant.

         2018 Opinion No. 45

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Honorable Rich Christensen, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Brian R. Dickson argued.

          Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Russell J. Spencer argued.

          BRODY, JUSTICE.

         This appeal arises from Russell Allen Passons's motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 35. The district court denied the motion on the basis of controlling precedent of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals relied on that precedent to affirm the district court's decision. We granted Passons's petition for review, and now affirm the decision of the district court.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Passons was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and a third count of burglary. He was later convicted by a jury of all three counts. Relevant for this appeal are the allegations particular to one of the aggravated assault counts under Idaho Code section 18-905 and a corresponding request for sentencing enhancement under Idaho Code section 19-2520. Those allegations read as follows (emphasis added):

That the defendant, Russell Allen Passons, on or about the 21st day of June, 2012, in the County of Kootenai, State of Idaho, did intentionally, unlawfully and with apparent ability threaten by word or act to do violence upon the person of [victim's name] with a deadly weapon, to-wit: a knife, which created a well-founded fear in said person that such violence was imminent; . . . .
The Prosecuting Attorney further informs the Court that the defendant, Russell Allen Passons, on or about the 21st day of June, 2012, in the County of Kootenai, State of Idaho, did use a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony, to-wit: by Passons using a knife to commit the felony crime(s) of Aggravated Assault, all of which is contrary to the form, force and effect of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Idaho.

         Following his conviction, Passons was sentenced to a term of twenty years, with ten years fixed, on the relevant count, which reflects that the district court enhanced the sentence pursuant to section 19-2520. The district court also imposed concurrent sentences of five years, all fixed, on the other aggravated assault count, and ten years, with five years fixed, on the burglary count. Passons appealed the judgment of conviction, which was ultimately affirmed by the Court of Appeals. State v. Passons, 158 Idaho 286, 346 P.3d 303 (Ct. App. 2015).

         From there, Passons filed a Rule 35 motion, contending that his enhanced sentence was illegal. The district court denied Passons's motion after finding that it was bound by the Court of Appeals' decision in State v. Hernandez, 120 Idaho 653, 818 P.2d 768 (Ct. App. 1991). Passons appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, holding that the decision was proper and that, under the rule of stare decisis, the decision in Hernandez was not "manifestly wrong" such that the court was required to overturn its precedent. State v. Passons, No. 44388, 2017 WL 3091747 (Ct. App. July 21, 2017). Thereafter, we granted Passons's petition for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "In cases that come before this Court on a petition for review of a Court of Appeals decision, this Court gives serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the decision of the lower court." State v. Garcia-Rodriguez, 162 Idaho 271, 274, 396 P.3d 700, 703 (2017) (quoting State v. Oliver, 144 Idaho 722, 724, 170 P.3d 387, 389 (2007)). "This Court thus acts as if the case were on direct appeal from the district court." Id. (quoting State v. James, 148 Idaho 574, 576, 225 P.3d 1169, 1171 (2010)).

         Idaho Criminal Rule 35 enables a trial court to "correct a sentence that is illegal from the face of the record at any time." I.C.R. 35(a). Whether this rule is implicated generally raises a question of law, for which this Court exercises free review. State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (citing State v. Farwell, 144 Idaho 732, 735, 170 P.3d 397, 400 (2007)).

         III. ...


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