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State v. Debarge

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 18, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
GERALD BRENT DEBARGE

APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. 20932-13. HONORABLE G. MICHAEL CANADAY, DISTRICT JUDGE.

John F. DeRosier, District Attorney, Fourteenth Judicial District, Carla S. Sigler, Tara B. Hawkins, Karen C. McLellan, Assistant District Attorneys, Lake Charles, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

Edward J. Marquet, Louisiana Appellate Project, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Gerald Brent Debarge.

Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

OPINION

[14-798 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] GREMILLION, Judge.

Defendant, Gerald Brent Debarge, was charged with and convicted of stalking as a result of sending letters to his victim. Defendant and the victim were once married but eventually divorced. Because of Defendant's harassing behavior, the victim obtained a restraining order against him. Although the restraining order prohibited Defendant from contacting the victim, he sent numerous letters to her. According to the victim, receiving letters from Defendant was a recurring problem that caused her great distress and fear. One letter in particular caused the victim to believe that Defendant was threatening to show up at her door to take her and her son.

Defendant was charged by grand jury indictment with one count of stalking, a violation of La.R.S. 14:40.2(A). Defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the charge. The State amended the indictment to change the date of the offense and to add the initials of the victim. On that same date, Defendant informed the trial court of his desire to represent himself. Defendant was allowed to represent himself;

Page 527

however, during the trial Defendant announced his desire for an attorney but refused the trial court's offer to have Catherine Stagg sit with him during trial. When Defendant lay down on the floor and refused to get up during trial, the trial court recessed until the next day. The following day, Defendant stated that he was ready to proceed with trial and again refused the trial court's offer to have Stagg assist him during trial. Thereafter, on January 10, 2014, the jury found Defendant guilty as charged.

At Defendant's request, Stagg represented him at sentencing on January 17, 2014. Due to Defendant's unruly behavior, he was removed from the courtroom before sentence was imposed. Pursuant to La.R.S. 14:40.2(A), the trial court found [14-798 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant placed the victim in fear of death or bodily injury by his continued harassment. Finding the maximum sentence appropriate, the trial court sentenced Defendant to five years with the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, to be served without benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Finally, the trial court issued a protective order against Defendant and in favor of the victim for an indefinite period of time. Defendant's counsel waived any reconsideration of sentence.

Defendant appeals alleging one assignment of error. However, we pretermit consideration of Defendant's assignment of error because an error patent in Defendant's sentencing requires that his sentence be vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.

ERRORS PATENT

In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. We find there was an error patent. Defendant was removed from the courtroom because of disruptive ...


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