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People v. Putney

California Court of Appeals, First District, First Division

July 27, 2016

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
THOMAS EARL PUTNEY, Defendant and Appellant.

         Sonoma County Superior Court No. SCR18094 Honorable Robert M. LaForge Trial Judge.

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         COUNSEL

         Ronald R. Boyer, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

         Kamala D. Harris Attorney General Gerald A. Engler Chief Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey M. Laurence & Laurence K. Sullivan and Bridget Billeter, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

         OPINION

         HUMES, P.J.

         Thomas Earl Putney appeals from an order recommitting him to the State Department of State Hospitals (SDSH) for an indeterminate term after a jury found him to be a sexually violent predator (SVP) within the meaning of the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA).[1] During the pendency of the SVP proceeding, Putney was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for an intervening criminal offense. We conclude that the trial court lacked authority to recommit Putney as an SVP once his sentence for the intervening criminal conviction became final, and we therefore reverse the order with directions to dismiss the recommitment petition.

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         I.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         During the summer of 1990, Putney sexually molested his two- and four-year-old cousins, with whom he lived at the time, and a nine-year-old neighbor. The following year, he pleaded no contest to three felony counts of lewd acts on a child under age 14 based on his offenses against the four- and nine-year-old, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.[2]

         In October 2002, shortly before Putney was due to be released on parole, the People filed a petition seeking his commitment to a state hospital as an SVP.[3] He admitted to the petition’s allegations, and in February 2003 the trial court committed him to Atascadero State Hospital for two years. At the end of the two-year term, the People did not seek to recommit Putney as an SVP, and he was released on parole in February 2005. He moved several times due to public outcry about his presence, became suicidal, and sought help from his parole officer. Putney returned to prison in approximately August 2005 after no other facility would accept him, and his parole was revoked “based upon [the] psychiatric return.”

         In September 2005, about a month before Putney was due to be released, the People filed a second petition seeking his commitment to a state hospital as an SVP. He did not contest the petition, and the following month the trial court committed him to Atascadero for another two-year term. The People filed the instant petition to recommit Putney as an SVP in July 2007, a few months before the expiration of that two-year term. In February 2008, the trial court found that the petition established probable cause to believe that Putney was an SVP, and a jury trial was set for later that spring.

         The SVP trial was continued many times and ultimately did not begin until April 2014, almost seven years after the recommitment petition was filed. Only one of the many reasons for the delay is relevant to the resolution of this appeal: in November 2010, Putney was charged with a felony count of possession of a dirk and dagger based on an incident at Coalinga State Hospital, where he was then housed. ...


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