Chesterton Tribune



Appeal rejected of local man who pleaded to sexual misconduct with minor

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The appeal of a Chesterton man serving a four-year sentence for felony sexual misconduct with a minor has been rejected by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Richard M. Statler, 66, was sentenced in October 2017 to two consecutive four-year terms after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct, with the second term fully suspended for probation, for an aggregate prison sentence of four years.

In exchange for his plea, four other charges against Statler were dismissed: two counts of felony child solicitation and two of felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The charges stem from an incident in June 2015, when a 14-year-old relative of Statler’s and her 15-year-old friend stayed at his home in Chesterton. During that time, investigators determined, Statler provided the girls with alcohol, gave them money to purchase marijuana, and had inappropriate intimate contact with both.

Included among the provisions of the plea agreement--which Statler as well as his attorney signed--was this one: that Statler agreed to waive all right to appeal his conviction and his sentence. However, after sentencing Statler, Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa incorrectly advised him that he did in fact have the right to appeal.

Statler accordingly contended in his appeal that “the trial court abused its discretion and that his sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offenses and his character.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals did note that the pre-sentence investigation considered a number of aggravating and mitigating factors in its report, namely, Statler’s age, his poor health, the fact that he had no prior criminal or substance abuse history, on the one hand; and that Statler “later downplayed the acts to which he pleaded guilty,” the fact that he violated a position of trust, and the harm he caused his victims.

But in the end the court rejected Statler’s appeal on one ground only: that Statler did irrevocably waive his right to appeal in accepting the plea agreement.

Citing an Indiana Supreme Court case, Creech v. State, the court concurred with Creech that “provisions waiving the right to appellate review of a sentence are enforceable as part of a written plea agreement”; that “after a defendant pleads guilty and receives the benefit of the plea bargain, subsequent actions by the trial court do not affect the waiver”; and that “the trial court’s erroneous advisement at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing had no effect on an otherwise knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of the right to appeal and was not grounds for allowing the defendant to circumvent the terms of his plea agreement.”

Statler is currently serving his four-year sentence at the New Castle Correctional Facility and has a projected release date of Sept. 24, 2020. On his release he will be required to register as a convicted sex offender.



Posted 8/1/2018




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