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State v. Stimpson

Supreme Court of Vermont

October 6, 2017

State of Vermont
v.
Ryan D. Stimpson

         APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Caledonia Unit Criminal Division DOCKET NO. 298-6-17 Cacr, Trial Judges: Elizabeth Mann, Thomas J. Devine

          Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justice, Beth Robinson, Associate Justice, Karen R. Carroll, Associate Justice

          ENTRY ORDER

          In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

         ¶ 1. Defendant, Ryan Stimpson, appeals the decision of the superior court to deny his motion to reconsider the revocation of his conditions of release and bail pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7575. We conclude that the court's ruling was supported by the proceedings below, and we therefore affirm.

         ¶ 2. The record indicates that defendant was arrested for domestic assault, 13 V.S.A. § 1042, and released with conditions on June 19, 2017. Defendant was prohibited from having any contact with complainant, the alleged victim of his assault, and he had to stay at least 300 feet away from her person, her home, and her place of employment. The court set no bail amount.

         ¶ 3. Within an hour of his release, defendant went to complainant's place of employment and allegedly threatened to burn it down. Three weeks later, on July 6, defendant went to complainant's home again, resulting in additional charges of domestic assault and reckless endangerment. Allegedly, defendant drove down the road at a high rate of speed while complainant hung onto the truck, inducing her to jump out; defendant also rapidly "pursued" her with the truck while she ran into her house. During that incident, complainant promised defendant that she would not call the police if he would return her to her home. Ten weeks after his initial release on conditions, on August 27, defendant went to complainant's home again. Testimony conflicted regarding that incident, but it led to four new counts of violations of conditions. According to complainant's statement to the police, defendant had arrived without invitation and yelled at her child. When she said she would call the police if he did not leave, he threatened to kill her, and he said that "she would pay for it and be sorry."

         ¶ 4. Based on these events, the State moved to revoke conditions of release and bail pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7575. The court granted the motion and revoked conditions of release and bail on September 1, 2017. The court denied defendant's motion to reconsider on September 19, 2017. This appeal ensued.

         ¶ 5. The superior court found by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant violated the conditions of his release, and defendant does not contest that finding. The court further held that defendant's actions intimidated or harassed a victim or potential witness in violation of 13 V.S.A. § 7575(1), and his violations constituted a threat to the integrity of the judicial system in violation of 13 V.S.A. § 7575(3). The court based its ruling on the "quality" of the violations, which were "significant and repeated" and "of a seriously threatening nature."

         ¶ 6. On appeal, defendant argues that his actions have not threatened the integrity of the judicial system. He points out that his actions have not made complainant unwilling to testify; in fact, she has testified that she is not currently afraid of defendant and not afraid of testifying in the future. In his motion to reconsider the revocation of conditions and bail, defendant also argued that the court should have explored alternatives to revocation, such as stricter conditions.

         ¶ 7. Pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7556(b), we will "affirm the lower court's ruling if it is supported by the proceedings below." State v. Gates, 2016 VT 36, ¶ 8, 201 Vt. 502, 145 A.3d 233 (quotation omitted).

         ¶ 8. Section 7575 of Title 13 permits revocation of bail in five situations. 13 V.S.A. § 7575. The court approved the revocation of bail under § 7575(1) and § 7575(3), so we focus our analysis on those two provisions:

The right to bail may be revoked entirely if the judicial officer finds that the accused has:
(1) intimidated or harassed a victim, potential witness, juror or judicial officer in violation of a condition of release; or . . .
(3) violated a condition or conditions of release which constitute a threat to the integrity of the ...

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