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Lafferty v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 19, 2016

JEFFERY ALLEN LAFFERTY, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Diane E. Courselle, Faculty Director, and Alan Davis, Student Intern, of the University of Wyoming Defender Aid Program, Laramie, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Davis.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin F. Young, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Young.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellant Jeffery Allen Lafferty was incarcerated awaiting trial for 811 days before pleading guilty to two counts of taking indecent liberties with his minor stepdaughter. Mr. Lafferty argues on appeal that his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Was Mr. Lafferty denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial?

         FACTS

         The Case Initially Filed – Docket No. 31-585

         [¶3] The saga began on November 2, 2012, when the State charged Mr. Lafferty with one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and arrested him. The Information alleged that Mr. Lafferty, the minor T.L.'s guardian, inflicted sexual intrusion on her by digital penetration of her vagina sometime between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010.

         [¶4] Mr. Lafferty's preliminary hearing in circuit court was set for November 9, 2012. He appeared before the court that day, but the hearing did not take place, apparently because he did not yet have an attorney. It was continued to November 16. By that time, Mr. Lafferty had been appointed counsel and elected to waive a speedy preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing was then continued to November 30, 2012, then to January 18, 2013, and then again to February 8, 2013. On February 4, Mr. Lafferty waived his right to the preliminary hearing entirely. After ninety-six days from his arrest, the case was bound over to the district court.

         [¶5] Arraignment was held on February 21, 2013. Mr. Lafferty pled not guilty, and the district court set a trial date of June 3, 2013.

         [¶6] A month later, on March 18, 2013, Mr. Lafferty filed a demand for a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Wyoming Constitution Art. 1 § 10, and Wyoming Rule of Criminal Procedure 48. Following a May 2013 scheduling conference, the district court was told that a plea agreement was on the horizon, so it set the case for a change of plea hearing on June 13, 2013, and it also vacated the trial date. At the hearing on June 13, Mr. Lafferty decided not to change his plea because he wanted more time to think about the plea agreement he had been offered.

         [¶7] Accordingly, trial was again reset for July 8, 2013, and a tentative change of plea hearing was scheduled for June 19, 2013. June 19 passed without Mr. Lafferty changing his plea. The next day, June 20, another scheduling conference was held, and Mr. Lafferty's trial was left on the July 8 criminal stack. Throughout the next few weeks, counsel and the judge kept in contact about whether the case would be tried or pled out, and for reasons that are not clear in the record, trial did not take place on July 8.

         [¶8] Then, on July 31, 2013, the State moved to dismiss the case without prejudice pursuant to W.R.Cr.P. 48(a) because victim T.L. had disclosed information supporting additional charges, and another victim had come forward. The State filed additional charges in a different docket. The district court granted the motion to dismiss the same day.

         The Second Case with New Charges - Docket No. 31-757

         [¶9] Prior to dismissing the charge in Docket No. 31-585, the State filed an Information charging Mr. Lafferty with eight counts arising from various sexual acts with another minor victim, his stepdaughter L.W., in Docket No. 31-757 on June 28, 2013. Later realizing an error had been made in the Information, on July 2, 2013 the State amended it to change the identity of the minor victim in count eight from L.W. to T.L. The eight counts set forth in the amended information were:

• Count I: Third degree sexual abuse of a minor, L.W., who was less than fourteen years old at the time, by fondling her breasts in June of 1998;
• Count II: Third degree sexual abuse of L.W. This count alleged that Mr. Lafferty inflicted sexual contact on the victim by rubbing her vaginal area in June of 1998;
• Count III: Immoral or indecent liberties with L.W., by exposing her to pornography in January of 1991;
• Count IV: Third degree sexual abuse of L.W. by fondling her breasts in January of 1991;
• Count V: Third degree sexual abuse of L.W by rubbing her vaginal area in January of 1991;
• Count VI: Third degree sexual abuse of L.W. by touching her vaginal area in February of 1996;
• Count VII: Incest as to L.W. This count alleged that Mr. Lafferty engaged in sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter in May of 2002;
• Count VIII: First degree sexual abuse of a minor, T.L., by engaging in sexual intercourse with her on December 7, 2011, while he was her guardian.

         We note that the charge concerning T.L. in Count VIII is different than the charge in the first case, Docket No. 31-585, which was dismissed about the time the Information just described was filed.

         [¶10] On July 1, 2013, Mr. Lafferty was served with a warrant for his arrest on the above eight charges while still in jail on Docket No. 31-585. As a result, he remained in jail continuously after the State dismissed the first case.

         [¶11] The circuit court held a preliminary hearing on the new Information on July 11, 2013, and Mr. Lafferty was bound over for trial on all charges. He filed a demand for speedy trial in the district court on July 30, 2013. He was arraigned on August 1, 2013, and pled not guilty to all counts. Trial was set for October 21, 2013.

         [¶12] There was supposed to be a scheduling conference on September 26, 2013, but defense counsel moved twice to vacate and reset it because of conflicts with his schedule. The district court granted the requests, resetting the conference to October 17, 2013. The trial date was subsequently vacated and reset to November 4, 2013.

         The Third Case – The Original Charge Refiled – Docket No. 31-819

         [¶13] On September 4, 2013, the State refiled the charge that had been dismissed in Docket No. 31-585; that is, the charge alleging that Mr. Lafferty inflicted first degree sexual abuse upon T.L. in 2010. The circuit court held a preliminary hearing on this charge on September 16, 2013, and the case was bound over to the district court for trial. Mr. Lafferty then filed a demand for speedy trial on September 23, 2013. On October 4, 2013, the district court arraigned him on the refiled charge in Docket No. 31-819, and he pled not guilty.

         [¶14] At the arraignment, the district court expressed its intention to set the trial for January 13, 2014, but defense counsel requested that it instead be set in early February. Mr. Lafferty voiced concern about his counsel's proposal, and referred to his speedy trial rights. The State echoed Mr. Lafferty's concerns and also requested that the trial be held in January. Defense counsel explained that he could not be present for trial in January, and that therefore new defense counsel would need to take over if trial took place then. Based upon what it heard from all parties, the district court set Mr. Lafferty's case for trial on February 3, 2014. As explained below, that trial date would also be vacated.

         Joinder of Docket Nos. 31-757 and 31-819 and the Rest of the Story

         [¶15] On October 24, 2013, the State moved to join Docket Nos. 31-757 and 31-819, asserting that the charges in each could have been filed in a single information. The district court agreed and granted the motion to join the cases on October 28, 2013.

         [¶16] On November 5, 2013, the court vacated and reset both dockets so they would be tried together on December 2, 2013. On November 21, 2013, the court held a scheduling conference, during which Mr. Lafferty's new public defender (his second attorney) indicated that he would enter into a plea agreement and change his plea. Defense counsel also suggested that his client would be willing to waive a speedy trial.[1 ...


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