Sunday, June 18, 2017

Paperwork Problems

Ruh roh! Rat's rot ronrurrent!
Perron v. Menard, 2017 VT 50

By Andrew Delaney

This case has some moving parts that could be hazardous to small children. Let’s hope I get the story straight.

New York wants Mr. Perron to come do time in the Empire State on a grand larceny bid. Mr. Perron was “initially detained on a prerequisition warrant”—whatever that is—but then the Vermont Governor issued two different warrants for Mr. Perron’s arrest. Best I can figure, the trial court denied Mr. Perron’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus and then denied his challenge to the governor’s warrants. How did we end up here?

Back in 2014, Mr. Perron was indicted in New York on a bunch of charges. Then he got hit with a federal wire fraud charge out of Florida. He was taken into New York custody and took a plea in New York on one count of grand larceny, for which he got a two-to-four-year bid. Mr. Perron was then shuffled off to the feds and convicted on the federal charge, racking up thirty months on the federal side. The sentencing documents didn’t say anything about whether it would be concurrent or consecutive to the New York sentence. As Scooby Doo might say, “Ruh roh. Rat’s rot rood.”

Mr. Perron did his federal time in New Hampshire. When he was released, New Hampshire took him into custody on the New York warrant. New Hampshire found something wrong with the paperwork and Mr. Perron was released.

Thinking everything was cool, Mr. Perron headed over to Vermont. But the state police quickly found out about the New York warrant, took Mr. Perron in, and put him in the kind of state-subsidized housing nobody really wants to live in.

Mr. Perron filed a writ of habeas corpus. The trial court denied it. Our Governor subsequently issued two extradition warrants. Mr. Perron tried to get those booted but the trial court shut that show down too.

So, Mr. Perron appeals. He argues that the New York paperwork doesn’t show that he has any remaining sentence to serve in that state and he’s not a “fugitive” in the extradition sense.

SCOV begins by noting that its authority is limited and we get a history lesson about the Extradition Clause (which is surprisingly not self-executing) and the Extradition Act of 1793, which was passed very close to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. But, as so often is the case, I digress. The idea is that when another state asks for a fugitive, the state receiving the request should generally turn the fugitive over to the other state so long as the paperwork’s in order.

Vermont adopted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) in 1933. The same idea applies. The paperwork has to show that: (1) the accused was in the demanding state at the time of the criminal offense and later fled; (2) the accused is in Vermont; and (3) the accused is charged with or committed a crime and is supposed to be in the big house or otherwise under supervision. This is a very technical description. Once a governor issues a warrant, then it’s basically determining whether: (1) the paperwork is in order; (2) a crime has been committed; (3) whether the warrant names the proper person; and (4) whether the person held is a fugitive.

The bottom line is that SCOV’s review in these cases is really just to make sure the proper boxes are checked off. With this in mind, SCOV turns to Mr. Perron’s arguments.

Mr. Perron says, “Look, my sentences are concurrent. I’ve done my time.” SCOV disagrees. Because the federal sentencing paperwork doesn’t say that the sentence is concurrent and it was imposed at a different time than the New York sentence, it’s consecutive under federal law.

Here’s a practice tip: MAKE SURE THE SENTENCING DOCUMENTS SAY “CONCURRENT.” I’m just guessing, but I’d bet that the next thing Mr. Perron files is an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on the federal side.

SCOV then turns to Mr. Perron’s but-I’m-not-a-fugitive argument. I think that’s fair. His pitch, loosely paraphrased, is: “Look. I pled out in New York. Then I got shuffled off to Florida. I served time. Then I got released from New Hampshire. None of this was my doing. All this adds up to ‘not a fugitive.’” SCOV, however, is not as easily swayed as me.

SCOV finds “this argument as unpersuasive as petitioner’s first.” SCOV explains that because Mr. Perron hasn’t yet done his New York bid he remains “charged” with a crime under the applicable statute. SCOV explains: “Neither the Extradition Clause, the federal Extradition Act, nor our statute predicates a party’s fugitive status on intentional flight from the charging jurisdiction.” Simply put, “fugitive” status is strict liability.

There’s some discussion of a Maine case that’s helpful for Mr. Perron, but SCOV rejects the reasoning on the basis that the applicable Maine statute included an explicit “fugitive” definition, whereas our statutes do not. And the rest of the case law ain’t so great for Mr. Perron.

Looks like Mr. Perron will be shuffled off to the Empire State.

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