Opinion No. 45
from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Honorable Rich Christensen,
decision of the district court is affirmed.
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.
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.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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.
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).
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
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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)).
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)).