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Stoner v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

February 23, 2018

CORY LYNN STONER, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

         Court of Appeals No. A-11976 Trial Court No. 3AN-12-11922 CR

         Appeal from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Warren W. Matthews and Michael L. Wolverton, Judges.

          Brooke Berens, Assistant Public Advocate, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          Nancy R. Simel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and James E. Cantor, Acting Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard and Wollenberg, Judges.

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, JUDGE.

         Cory Lynn Stoner, a felony probationer, absconded from a halfway house. Stoner had been placed there by the Department of Corrections while he awaited sentencing for violating his felony probation.

         Under Alaska law, a felony defendant who absconds from official detention is guilty of a class B felony - second-degree escape. But the residents' handbook at Stoner's halfway house erroneously stated that felony defendants who absconded from the facility would be guilty of "unlawful evasion". Stoner was aware (apparently, from previous experience, and perhaps from conversations with other residents of the halfway house) that the crime of "unlawful evasion" was only a misdemeanor. According to Stoner, he decided that it was worth the risk to abscond from the halfway house, since he believed that the penalty was no more than one year in prison.

         After Stoner was indicted for second-degree escape, he asked the superior court to dismiss this felony charge. Stoner argued that the halfway house handbook was at least partially responsible for misleading him into thinking that his crime was only a misdemeanor. Stoner further argued that because the halfway house was operating under a contract with the Department of Corrections, any misleading information in the handbook should be attributed to the State of Alaska itself. Thus, Stoner concluded, even though he absconded from the halfway house, it was unfair for the State of Alaska to prosecute him for a felony.

         The superior court denied Stoner's motion to dismiss the indictment, and Stoner was ultimately convicted of second-degree escape.

         Stoner now appeals his conviction, renewing his argument that it is unfair to convict him of felony escape when the information in the halfway house handbook was at least partially responsible for leading him to believe that his crime would only be a misdemeanor.

         For the reasons explained in this opinion, we affirm Stoner's felony conviction.

         Underlying facts

         In November 2012, Cory Lynn Stoner was facing petitions to revoke his probation in two felony cases. The superior court had already found that Stoner violated his probation, and he was awaiting sentencing for these violations.

         Pending his sentencing, the Department of Corrections placed Stoner at a halfway house - the Parkview Center. The Parkview Center was owned and operated by a private company, under contract with the Department of Corrections.

         About a week after Stoner was transferred to the Parkview Center, the staff discovered a mobile phone and a telephone card hidden under his mattress. This was a violation of the Center's rules, and Stoner knew that he would be sent back to jail. So instead, Stoner fled.

         Stoner was apprehended about three months later, and he was charged with second-degree escape under AS 11.56.310(a)(1)(B). This statute makes it a class B felony to unlawfully "remove[] oneself from ... official detention for a felony".

         Stoner asked the superior court to dismiss this felony charge on the ground that the Parkview staff misled him as to the seriousness of the crime he would commit if he absconded from the Parkview Center.

         Stoner's argument was based on the fact that, during his orientation session at the Parkview Center, he was given a 52-page residents' handbook. One passage in this handbook warned Parkview Center residents that they were not allowed to leave the Center without authorization. The handbook then mistakenly stated that residents who were in custody for a felony would be charged with "unlawful evasion" under AS 11.56.340 if they left the halfway house without permission.

         In fact, AS 11.56.340 does not apply to felony prisoners who abscond from a halfway house. Instead, this statute applies to misdemeanor prisoners - persons "charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor"-who fail to return to official detention after they have been granted a ...


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