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State v. Wood

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 1, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Anthony Thomas Wood, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable James T. Blanch No. 151907516 No. 151909225

          Alexandra S. McCallum, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Diana Hagen concurred.


          POHLMAN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Defendant Anthony Thomas Wood appeals his sentences in this consolidated appeal from two separate cases. He argues that the district court exceeded its discretion when it sentenced him to prison rather than probation. He also argues that the court exceeded its discretion by ordering the sentences in the two cases to run consecutively. We affirm.

         ¶2 In August 2015, the State charged Wood with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery, both first degree felonies, and aggravated assault, a second degree felony, based on events that occurred in May 2014 (the Assault case). The victim (Victim) in that case alleged that when she dropped Wood off after dinner one night, Wood took her keys and ran into his apartment. Victim chased him inside, at which point Wood "began striking her in the head and chok[ing] her." Wood's girlfriend (Girlfriend) also joined in the assault. At one point during the attack, Wood "produced a gun, held it to [Victim's] head and threatened to kill her." Wood and Girlfriend then "forced [Victim] to remain in a back bedroom" for several hours. During that time, Wood and Girlfriend forced Victim to provide information about her bank account so that they could withdraw money from it. Eventually, after withdrawing money from Victim's bank account, Wood and Girlfriend let Victim take her car and go.

         ¶3 In January 2016, the State charged Wood in a separate case with five counts of possession of forged writing, all third degree felonies, based on events that occurred in June 2015 (the Forgery case). The charges were supported by statements that police had "located several counterfeit U.S. bills" in Wood's bedroom. In addition, a cab driver stated that Wood had paid his cab fare with a $100 counterfeit bill.

         ¶4 In March 2016, Wood pleaded guilty in both cases. For the Assault case, Wood pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated assault, a third degree felony, admitting that he "threatened the use of a firearm while assaulting another individual." For the Forgery case, Wood pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of forged writing, both third degree felonies, admitting that he "possessed two counterfeit bills."

         ¶5 The district court sentenced Wood on both cases in May 2016. In anticipation of sentencing, Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) prepared a presentence report (the PSR). The PSR contained information about the factual circumstances underlying each case as well as information specific to Wood, such as his criminal history, his probation history, and other factors relevant to a sentencing determination. AP&P noted that Wood "expressed a desire for probation" but nonetheless recommended that Wood be committed to prison. AP&P stated that while Wood was "cooperative during his interview, " "the circumstances surrounding the assault on [Victim] were egregious." It noted that Wood "demonstrated little remorse for [Victim], " believing that his "only offense was 'breaking [Victim's] heart.'" And it noted that after the assault, Wood "continued to participate in criminal behavior, " which persuaded AP&P that "increased sanctions . . . [were] appropriate."

         ¶6 Although Wood requested probation at sentencing, the district court sentenced him to prison. The court ordered him to serve zero to five years for the aggravated assault as well as zero to five years for each count in the Forgery case. The court ordered the sentences in the Forgery case to run concurrently, but it ordered the sentences for the Assault case and the Forgery case to run consecutively.

         ¶7 In rejecting Wood's request for probation, the court explained that "there are some offenses that involve facts and circumstances that are disturbing enough . . . that prison is the appropriate sentence, " and the court stated that "this [was] one of those cases." The court explained that Wood's behavior in the aggravated assault "essentially amount[ed] to torture [of Victim] that extend[ed] over a significant period of time, " and it stated that the crime was "bad enough that the tools . . . available to [the court] in terms of imposing probation are really not enough to capture the gravity of the crime." In doing so, the court recognized that Girlfriend was given probation for her involvement in the assault. However, the court distinguished Girlfriend's circumstances, noting that Girlfriend had a "different criminal history and a different subsequent pattern of criminal behavior" from Wood and that Wood, not Girlfriend, was "essentially the instigator" of the assault.

         ¶8 The court also explained why it imposed concurrent sentences for each of the Forgery case counts but consecutive sentences as between the Assault case and the Forgery case. The court first reviewed the statutory factors it was required to consider under Utah Code section 76-3-401 in deciding whether to impose consecutive sentences. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-401(2) (LexisNexis 2017) (explaining that "[i]n determining whether state offenses are to run concurrently or consecutively, the court shall consider the gravity and circumstances of the offenses, the number of victims, and the history, character, and rehabilitative needs of the defendant"). For the forgery counts, the court explained that it imposed concurrent sentences because, while "serious, " those counts were "lesser offenses compared to the aggravated assault, " and they "occurred in a relatively discrete period of time and appeared to arise from the same pattern of poor decision making."

         ¶9 The court then explained that the sentence for the aggravated assault count "should be consecutive" to the Forgery case in light of the "nature, gravity, and circumstances." The court stated that the assault was "really troublesome" and that "it occurred at a different time and it involved a different type of conduct than the forgery offenses." The court also explained that "the number of victims" supported running the sentences consecutively-that there were two victims "when you put the forgery charges together with the victim of the assault" and that the victim of the assault "would be most severely traumatized by what occurred." The court acknowledged that while Wood's history suggested some leniency might be appropriate, ...

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