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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 17, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
KANDIE THOMAS Appellant

         Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Franklin, Louisiana Lower Court Case Nos. 2015-193F & 2015-194M Honorable Terry A. Doughty, Judge.

          PHILIP A. LETARD, SR. Counsel for Appellant.

          JOHN M. LANCASTER District Attorney WILLIAM R. BARHAM AMANDA M. WILKINS Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before MOORE, PITMAN, and GARRETT, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         Defendant Kandie Thomas pled guilty to aggravated criminal damage to property and was sentenced to serve ten years at hard labor. She appeals, arguing that her sentence is excessive. For the following reasons, we affirm her conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         On March 13, 2015, Defendant and her husband, Odis Wayne Thomas, were married, but separated. Defendant went to Mr. Thomas's house to pick up the family dog and drove her vehicle through the back door of the house and into the living room area where Mr. Thomas was sitting. He ran out of the house and down the street and noticed Defendant was chasing him, so he hid. Responding police officers found Defendant in the backyard of the house, where she demanded that Mr. Thomas be arrested because he refused to give her the family dog. Officers placed Defendant under arrest, which she resisted. The officers located Defendant's vehicle down the street from the house and observed two handguns inside. Mr. Thomas told the officers that the guns had been locked inside a closet in his house and that Defendant was not supposed to have any guns.

         On March 26, 2015, the state filed a bill of information charging Defendant with one count of aggravated criminal damage to property in violation of La. R.S. 14:55 and one count of domestic abuse aggravated assault in violation of La. R.S. 14:37.7. In a separate bill of information, the state charged Defendant with one count of violation of protective orders in violation of La. R.S. 14:79. On April 29, 2015, Defendant entered a plea of not guilty.

         On May 28, 2015, defense counsel filed a motion requesting a sanity commission. Counsel alleged that Defendant had a history of mental illness and that she may have been insane at the time she committed the offenses. The district court granted the motion and ordered that Defendant submit to evaluations by Dr. John C. Simoneaux and Dr. Philip Scurria in order to determine her sanity at the time of the commission of the offenses. After conducting their evaluations, both doctors filed reports of their conclusions with the district court. Dr. Simoneaux reported that Defendant could stand trial and that it was more likely than not that she understood right from wrong at the time of the alleged offenses. Dr. Scurria concluded that Defendant was aware of her actions at the time she committed the offenses and that she is able to work with her attorney to prepare her defense. At a hearing on January 6, 2016, the district court ruled that Defendant was competent to assist in her defense and to stand trial.

         On February 18, 2016, Defendant appeared in court to withdraw her prior not guilty pleas. The state noted that the parties agreed, with Judge Terry Doughty's concurrence, that Judge James Stephens would hear and accept Defendant's guilty plea and that Judge Doughty would preside over the sentencing. The state advised the district court that, in exchange for Defendant's guilty plea as to the charge of aggravated criminal damage to property, it would dismiss the charge of domestic abuse aggravated assault and agree to a sentence cap. Following a guilty plea colloquy, the district court found that Defendant's guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily made, and it accepted her plea of guilty. Judge Stephens ordered a presentence investigation ("PSI") report and noted that Judge Doughty would preside over sentencing. The state then advised the district court that the sentence agreement was for a sentence cap of ten years at hard labor. The state then dismissed the charges of domestic abuse aggravated assault and violation of protective orders. Judge Stephens ordered those matters dismissed, but stated that he was "not executing the plea agreement, that will be for Judge Doughty to do."

         Defendant appeared for sentencing on March 9, 2016, before Judge Doughty. The district court stated that it had reviewed the PSI report, which detailed Defendant's criminal history, consisting of two prior arrests for offenses against her husband. In July 2008, Defendant was arrested after discharging a handgun in the direction of Mr. Thomas. She was charged with aggravated battery and discharge of a firearm. She pled guilty to the reduced charge of aggravated assault and paid a fine, and the charge for discharge of a firearm was nolle prossed. On February 13, 2015-one month before the instant offense-Defendant was arrested for firing a handgun. Mr. Thomas told law enforcement officers that he was standing on a driveway and speaking to Defendant's sister about company paperwork when Defendant came out of the house and pointed a gun at him and fired it. Defendant told law enforcement that she fired the gun into the air over Mr. Thomas's head because she wanted him to leave the area. Defendant was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, and the charge was still pending when the PSI report was compiled.

         In his victim's statement in the PSI report, Mr. Thomas indicated that probation rather than incarceration would benefit Defendant. He explained that she needs long-term counseling and medication for her mental health issues. He noted that Defendant's behavior had become worse within the past four to five years and explained that she has trouble controlling her anger and aggression and suffers from severe mood swings. He stated that she is manipulative and intelligent enough to use her words to control people and that she becomes aggressive when her manipulation fails to work. He further stated that he did not seek restitution for damage to the vehicle and the house and that he paid for the repairs from their joint banking account. He offered to help pay for Defendant's treatment and stated that, if she attends counseling and takes her medication, she could be productive again.

         In her statement for the PSI report, Theresa Smith, Defendant's sister, stated that Defendant suffered from seizures and observed that her seizure medication, Keppra, caused her to behave strangely. Ms. Smith noted that Defendant recently began taking lithium and that it had "made a big difference" in her behavior. Ms. Smith believed that the seizures, problems with medication and distress caused by the recent deaths of Defendant's mother and previous husband overwhelmed Defendant. She indicated that incarceration would not help Defendant and that probation would help her stay on her medication.

         In her statement for the PSI report, Tracy Hanson, Defendant's sister, reported that Defendant had never been a violent person until her seizures began. Ms. Hanson noted that Defendant had benefited from taking lithium. She stated that incarceration would not help Defendant because she needs to meet with a doctor on a regular basis. She opined that ...


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