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Stover v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 2, 2017

DANIEL STOVER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE POLK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 57CR-16-11] HONORABLE JERRY RYAN, JUDGE

          Shane Ethridge, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, Associate Justice.

         Appellant Daniel Stover appeals his convictions in the Pope County Circuit Court for sexually grooming a child, two counts of sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in the second degree, and rape. Stover was sentenced as an habitual offender and received life sentences for each of his first-degree sexual assault convictions, a sentence of life without parole for his rape conviction, and a total of twenty-six years' imprisonment for his remaining convictions, with all sentences to be served consecutively. On appeal, Stover argues that the circuit court violated his due-process rights by allowing an ex post facto application of the habitual-offender ranges with regard to his life sentences for rape and for the two counts of first-degree sexual assault. We affirm.

         On January 19, 2016, Stover was charged with sexually grooming a child thirteen years of age or younger on or before January 1, 2015, in violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-27-307 (Repl. 2013); second-degree sexual assault of a minor on or before January 1, 2015, in violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-14-125; two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a minor on or between January 2, 2015, and June 8, 2015, in violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-14-124; and rape of a minor under fourteen years of age on or before January 1, 2015, in violation of Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-14-103. In addition, the State sought enhanced penalties on the first-degree sexual assault charges under Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-4-501(c)(1) (Supp. 2015) and on the rape charge under section 5-4-501(c)(3), based on Stover's previous conviction for first-degree sexual assault.

         The charges against Stover were based on the allegations of his minor stepson, H.C., that Stover had shown H.C. pornography and had engaged in sexual contact and deviate sexual activity with H.C. when he was between eight and fifteen years of age. A detailed recitation of the facts and evidence supporting the charges is unnecessary because Stover does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal.

         The jury trial was held on April 14, 2016. Prior to trial, Stover objected to the enhanced sentencing ranges on the first-degree sexual-assault and rape charges. He argued that the alleged sexual misconduct giving rise to the charges in this case occurred prior to his September 16, 2015 conviction for first-degree sexual assault, an offense to which he had pled guilty on June 8, 2015, and which involved his ex-wife's niece. Stover asserted that it would violate his due-process rights to subject him to an increased range of punishment for conduct that occurred before the September 2015 conviction. The circuit court took the motion under advisement at that time.

         Stover renewed his objection during his directed-verdict motions, which were denied by the circuit court. The jury convicted Stover of all of the charges against him, and prior to the sentencing hearing, Stover's counsel again raised the issue of the enhanced sentences, stating:

Your Honor, now that Mr. Stover has been convicted, I would renew the motion to object to the extended term of imprisonment based on prior convictions. I think in this case Mr. Stover- everyone agrees that the incidents that took place in this case took place before June 8, 2015, when he entered a plea to sexual assault in the first degree. I think that it would violate due process that he be subject to an enhanced term of imprisonment, specifically on the rape allegation and the sexual assault first degree allegations based on incidents that took place before he was convicted of any offense.
. . . . So, I just don't think that under the facts in this case that it would meet the due process requirements of notice No. 1 and 2, the fundamentals of fairness to Mr. Stover to be subjected to an extended term of imprisonment for incidents that took place before a prior conviction.

         The circuit court denied Stover's objection, noting that the habitual-offender statute makes no such distinction based on a timeline of the conduct underlying the offenses. Stover then clarified that his objection was based on the due-process clauses of both the Arkansas and the United States Constitutions, and "specifically notice and fairness as to the timing of these incidents." The circuit court ruled that there was no violation of Stover's procedural or substantive due-process rights under the circumstances in this case.

         Stover was sentenced by the jury to six years in the Arkansas Department of Correction for sexually grooming a child, twenty years for second-degree sexual assault, an enhanced sentence of two terms of life for the two counts of first-degree sexual assault, and an enhanced sentence of life without parole for the rape charge. Based on the jury's recommendation, the circuit court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively. The sentencing order was entered on April 15, 2016, and Stover filed a timely notice of appeal to this court.

         In his sole point on appeal, Stover argues that the circuit court erred by allowing the State to request enhanced punishment based on conduct that occurred prior to the conviction that was used for enhancement purposes. Specifically, he contends that his due-process rights were violated by allowing an "ex post facto application of the enhancement, " resulting in a punishment that he had no notice of at the time the offenses in this case were committed. In support of his argument, Stover cites to article 1, § 10 of the United States Constitution and article 2, § 17 of ...


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