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John Kevin Eckdahl v. the State of Wyoming

November 8, 2011

JOHN KEVIN ECKDAHL, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Sublette County The Honorable Marvin L. Tyler, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] On January 13, 2009, John Kevin Eckdahl was sentenced following his conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. On January 28, 2010, he filed a motion to modify his sentence. The district court denied the motion as untimely pursuant to W.R.Cr.P. 35(b), which allows a motion for sentence modification "within one year after the sentence is imposed." Mr. Eckdahl did not appeal the district court's denial of his motion, but instead filed a petition for reconsideration, followed by another motion to reduce his sentence. The district court entered an order denying both the petition for reconsideration and the pending motion for sentence reduction. Mr. Eckdahl, appearing pro se, challenges the district court's order. We will dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Eckdahl's issues, reworded for the sake of clarity, are as follows:

1. Did the State breach the plea agreement with Mr. Eckdahl, entitling him to withdraw his guilty plea?

2. Did defense counsel breach his obligations to Mr. Eckdahl?

3. Were Mr. Eckdahl's due process rights violated?

4. Did this Court's failure to appoint appeal counsel for Mr. Eckdahl deny him meaningful access to the law and to the courts?

The State responds that this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider Mr. Eckdahl's claims, and further contends that, if we reach the merits of these claims, the district court committed no abuse of discretion in denying Mr. Eckdahl's motion for reconsideration and his motion for sentence reduction.

FACTS

[¶3] In 2008, Mr. Eckdahl was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute. A warrant for his arrest was issued, and on May 30, 2008, officers of the Sublette County Sheriff's Department arrested him. While searching Mr. Eckdahl, officers found a vial of methamphetamine. They found another 46 grams of methamphetamine in a container from Mr. Eckdahl's briefcase. Mr. Eckdahl was charged in state court with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2007), and one count of possession of a controlled substance in an amount over three grams, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(ii).

[¶4] On August 22, 2008, Mr. Eckdahl entered a plea of guilty in the federal district court. In accordance with his plea agreement, Mr. Eckdahl was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment, but it was further agreed that his sentence could be reduced if he cooperated with local, state, or federal authorities.

[¶5] Mr. Eckdahl initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in state court. He later reached a plea agreement, and changed his plea to guilty on the first count. The second count was dismissed. At the change of plea hearing, defense counsel explained that "the gist of the plea agreement" was that the recommended sentence on the state charge should "not exceed" the sentence Mr. Eckdahl received on the federal charge. Defense counsel further explained that "there may be a later modification of the federal sentence in the form of a downward departure, [and] if there is such a downward departure we would come back before this court, [with] a motion to modify the state sentence to match the new federal sentence."

[¶6] The prosecutor then read the plea agreement into the record:

[Prosecutor]: Mr. Eckdahl is charged with Count I, possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, with intent to deliver, a felony, in violation of Wyoming Statute 35-7-1031(a)(i). He is also charged with Count II, possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, in an amount greater than three grams, a felony, in violation of Wyoming Statute 35-7-1031(c)(ii). In consideration of these mutual terms and covenants and the conditions of this Statement of Agreement, with respect to the parties identified earlier agree with one another and hereby represent, submit and recommend to the Court as follows: Defendant, John Kevin Eckdahl, will enter a plea of guilty to [Count I]. . . . The parties have agreed to make a joint recommendation to the Court regarding Defendant's sentence. Defendant's sentence would be for a time from two to four years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary and that would be concurrent with Mr. Eckdahl's sentence in the federal case. . . . Defendant has already been sentenced in that case to a term of imprisonment of 70 months. In exchange for Defendant's guilty plea the State will agree to dismiss [Count II]. . . . Furthermore the State would agree not to object in the future should the Defendant become eligible for a sentence reduction in the federal case based upon several factors that are still up in the air, I think cooperation with further prosecutions would be the primary one, so should the federal sentence be reduced to an amount of time that would affect the period of time the Defendant would serve in this case, the State would not object to . . . Defendant bringing a motion for sentence reduction in this case to reduce the sentence such that Defendant would again serve concurrent time in the federal case. I guess what I'm saying, your Honor, to make it ...


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