CARRIE D. SIMANTS, Appellant,
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee
Appeal from the Superior Court, First Judicial District, Sitka, David V. George, Judge. Trial Court No. 1SI-11-381 CR.
Brooke Berens, Assistant Public Advocate, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, for the Appellant.
Jean E. Seaton, Assistant District Attorney, Sitka, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]
Carrie D. Simants was thirty-three years old when she had sexual intercourse with R.H., a seventeen-year-old boy who was living in her home. At the time, R.H. had been adjudicated a delinquent, and Simants had agreed to oversee his compliance with his delinquency case plan. A jury therefore found that Simants was in a " position of authority" over R.H. and convicted her of one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Simants was sentenced to 8 years with 3 years suspended (5 years to serve) and 10 years' probation for this offense.
On appeal, Simants challenges her sentence on three grounds. She asserts that the superior court erred by rejecting the two statutory mitigating factors she proposed at sentencing. She argues, in the alternative, that the court should have referred her case to the statewide three-judge sentencing panel for consideration of a sentence below the applicable presumptive range. Lastly, she challenges a condition of probation that could potentially preclude her from living with her own children after her release.
For the reasons explained below, we conclude that the superior court applied the wrong legal analyses when it rejected the two statutory mitigating factors and imposed the challenged probation condition. Accordingly, we vacate the probation condition and remand this case to the superior court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Because Simants may be resentenced, we do not reach the merits of her three-judge sentencing panel arguments at this time.
Background facts and proceedings
Seventeen-year-old R.H. was adjudicated a delinquent on a charge of criminal mischief. At the time of his adjudication, R.H. was living with Simants, whom he referred to as his " aunt," although the two were not related. Following his adjudication, R.H. was placed on probation and ordered to live with his mother until he turned eighteen years old.
R.H. left his mother's house within a few days and moved back in with Simants because he felt like his mother did not treat him with respect. He later testified that he preferred living with Simants because she " never came at [him] with authority" and did not set rules for him. R.H.'s probation officer met with R.H., his mother, and Simants. Because R.H.'s mother was planning to move out of town, R.H.'s probation officer agreed to allow R.H. to live with Simants. The probation officer developed a case plan for
R.H., which was signed by R.H.'s mother and Simants.
About two weeks after R.H. moved back into Simants's house, the two began having sexual intercourse. This sexual relationship lasted for a few months, until R.H. decided to move out following an argument. During this time Simants became pregnant, and she told R.H. that he was the father.
R.H. did not believe the baby was his, and he told Simants so. Simants then sent R.H. text messages that he believed to be threatening, so he contacted the police about obtaining a no-contact order. R.H. told the police that his relationship with Simants had been sexual. R.H. then assisted the police in recording Simants's statements to R.H. under a Glass warrant. In that recorded conversation, Simants admitted to having had sexual intercourse with R.H.
Simants was charged with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. Under AS 11.41.436(a)(6), a person is guilty of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree if the person engages in sexual penetration with a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old while occupying " a position of authority in relation to the victim."
At trial, Simants disputed that she was in " a position of authority" in relation to R.H. She acknowledged that she had signed his probation case plan, but claimed that she had not participated in the development of the plan and had never asserted any authority over him. In response, the State argued that while Simants may have been a poor authority figure, she ...