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Damron v. Damron

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions I and IV

March 13, 2019

TINA DAMRON APPELLANT
v.
STEWART DAMRON APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 04DR-14-435] HONORABLE BRAD KARREN, JUDGE.

          Misty Aaron Grady, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., Vada Berger, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          RITA W. GRUBER, Chief Judge.

         Appellant Tina Damron appeals from an order of the Benton County Circuit Court finding her guilty on five counts of indirect criminal contempt pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-10-108 (Repl. 2010). For her sole point on appeal, Ms. Damron contends that the court erred in failing to grant her a jury trial. We disagree and affirm.

         Tina Damron and Stewart Damron divorced in 2014. The present contempt action arose out of their divorce case. On October 20, 2017, the circuit court ordered Ms. Damron to appear and show cause as to why she should not be held in contempt and incarcerated pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-10-108 for failure to comply with the circuit court's previous orders. The order listed at least eight alleged violations of specific court orders arising from the divorce proceedings, the substance of which are not at issue in this appeal. The show-cause hearing was set for December 7, 2017.

At the December 7, 2017 hearing, the following colloquy took place:
The Court: Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 16-10-108, [Ms. Damron] is on notice as to the citation of contempt in this order dated October 20th as to which orders the Court is wanting to address. She was advised on October 20th of her right to counsel, her presumption of innocence, her right against self-incrimination, her right to confront and call witnesses and subpoena witnesses. The standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. And this is pursuant to § 16-10-108, contempt is a Class C misdemeanor. Also under § 5-4-401 with the penalties being anything 30 days or less in the Benton County jail and $500 or less in a fine.
Ms. Damron's Counsel: And, Your Honor, since there are, I believe, eight counts, correct me if I'm wrong, of contempt that puts the maximum punishment range in this case of 240 days, which gets us over the six-month requirement necessary for my client to have a right to trial by jury in this case. We would like to invoke that right.
The Court: Denied. Thank you. Ms. Damron's Counsel: Your Honor, one final one if I could. This-each one is punishable by up to 30 days but under the inherent powers doctrine, [1]you, of course, have the authorization to exceed that. We would like to ask for a statutory cap that you plan to go for each of these counts.
The Court: We'll see how the evidence comes in. I'll let you know.
Ms. Damron's Counsel: Thank you, Your Honor.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found Ms. Damron guilty of five counts of indirect criminal contempt under Ark. Code Ann. § 16-10-108 and imposed a total of sixty days' incarceration in the Benton County jail, with thirty days suspended.[2] The court also ordered payment of restitution and fines. The order was entered December 7, 2017, and Ms. Damron filed a timely notice of appeal on December 21, 2017.

         On appeal, Ms. Damron contends that the court erred in failing to grant a jury trial. Specifically, she argues that the court's refusal to grant a jury trial, along with the refusal to cap the statutory amount of days she could serve in jail, indicates that she may have been sentenced to six months or longer in jail, which she contends triggers her right to a jury trial. In addition, Ms. Damron suggests that the court's refusal to indicate how long it intended to sentence her if she were found guilty was in violation of Etoch v. State, 343 Ark. ...


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