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Date: 11-25-2020

Case Style:

John D. Messmore v. State of Indiana

Case Number: 20A-CR-00916

Judge: John G. Baker

Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA

Plaintiff's Attorney: Curtis T. Hill, Jr.
Attorney General of Indiana

Steven Hosler
Deputy Attorney General

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Franklin, IN - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant charged with larceny of merchanise.



On September 18, 2019, Robert Chastain, an asset protection associate for the
J.C. Penney store at the Greenwood Mall, received a report of suspicious
activity at the fine jewelry department. Chastain went to that part of the store
and observed Messmore standing there and then putting two earring cases
down on a table before exiting the store. Chastain caught up to Messmore in
the mall parking lot and they returned to the store to search for possible missing
merchandise. After returning to the store, Michael Payton, another loss
prevention officer who was assisting, noticed Messmore remove items from his
crotch area and place them on a nearby table at the entrance to the store.
[3] The earrings were retrieved and Messmore signed an acknowledgement that he
took the earrings from J.C. Penney without permission. Messmore admitted
that he took a Xanax pill before entering the store for the purpose of taking the
earrings without paying. Officer Joseph Taylor of the Greenwood Police
Department received a “rundown of [Messmore’s] testimony, what he said,”
1
Ind. Code § 35-43-4-2(a)(1)(c) (2019).
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 20A-CR-916 | November 19, 2020 Page 3 of 7
Tr. Vol. 2, p. 128, from Payton, and advised Messmore of his rights before
questioning him. At that time, Messmore did not deny the version of events
and statements as related by Payton.
[4] On September 25, 2019, the State charged Messmore with Level 6 felony theft,
alleging that he had a prior conviction for theft. At trial, Messmore admitted
that he took a Xanax pill before entering the store for the purpose of taking the
earrings without paying. However, he denied taking the earrings.
[5] On December 11, 2019, a jury found Messmore guilty of theft. He had
previously stipulated to having a prior conviction, elevating his offense to a
Level 6 felony. The trial court found Messmore’s criminal history was an
aggravating circumstance. As for mitigating circumstances, the trial court
found that Messmore was remorseful and was cooperative with police. After
finding that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, the trial
court sentenced Messmore to 730 days executed.
Discussion and Decision
[6] Messmore claims the trial court erred in sentencing by abusing its discretion,
stating that “not enough weight [was] given to Messmore’s mitigating factors,”
and that the trial court “did not really look at the nature of the offense,”
Appellant’s Br. p. 7, blending two different standards of review. We observe
that since Anglemyer v. State, 868 N.E.2d 482, 491 (Ind. 2007), clarified on reh’g,
875 N.E.2d 218, was handed down, a sentencing court cannot abuse its
discretion by failing to properly weigh aggravating and mitigating factors.
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 20A-CR-916 | November 19, 2020 Page 4 of 7
However, the essence of Messmore’s legal argument is that the sentence was
inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the
offender. We discuss that argument now.
[7] Article 7, sections 4 and 6 of the Indiana Constitution “authorize[] independent
appellate review and revision of a sentence imposed by the trial court.”
Childress v. State, 848 N.E.2d 1073, 1080 (Ind. 2006) (quoting Buchanan v. State,
767 N.E.2d 967, 972 (Ind. 2002)). “Indeed even where the trial court has been
meticulous in following the proper procedure in imposing a sentence, we may
exercise our authority under Appellate Rule 7(B) to revise a sentence that we
conclude is inappropriate.” Childress, 848 N.E.2d at 1079-80 (quoting Hope v.
State, 834 N.E.2d 713, 718 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). A defendant bears the burden of persuading us that his sentence is
inappropriate. Childress, 848 N.E.2d at 1080.
[8] We independently examine the nature of Messmore’s offense and his character
under Rule 7(B) with substantial deference to the trial court’s sentence. See
Satterfield v. State, 33 N.E.3d 344, 355 (Ind. 2015). Such deference to the trial
court’s judgment should prevail unless overcome by compelling evidence
portraying in a positive light the nature of the offense (such as accompanied by
restraint, regard, and lack of brutality) and the defendant’s character (such as
substantial virtuous traits or persistent examples of good character). Stephenson
v. State, 29 N.E.3d 111, 122 (Ind. 2015). “In conducting our review, we do not
look to see whether the defendant’s sentence is appropriate or if another
sentence might be more appropriate; rather, the test is whether the sentence is
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 20A-CR-916 | November 19, 2020 Page 5 of 7
‘inappropriate.’” Barker v. State, 994 N.E.2d 306, 315 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013),
trans. denied. The principal role of appellate review should be to attempt to
leaven the outliers, “not to achieve a perceived ‘correct’ result in each case.”
Cardwell v. State, 895 N.E.2d 1219, 1225 (Ind. 2008).
[9] Concerning the nature of the offense “the advisory sentence is the starting point
the legislature has selected as an appropriate sentence for the crime
committed.” Kunberger v. State, 46 N.E.2d 966, 973 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015).
Messmore was charged with theft, a Class A misdemeanor enhanced to a Level
6 felony because of his prior theft conviction. The sentencing range for a Level
6 felony is a term of between six months and two and a half years, with an
advisory sentence of one year. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7(b) (2019). Messmore
received a two-year sentence to be served consecutively to a sentence in a
separate action.
[10] Generally, the nature of the offense is found in the details and circumstances of
the commission of the offense and the defendant’s participation. Croy v. State,
953 N.E.2d 660, 664 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011). Here, the nature of Messmore’s
offense is that he took earrings from J.C. Penney at the Greenwood Mall
without paying or permission. He took a Xanax, a controlled substance, prior
to entering the store to do so and committed the present offense while he was
on probation for a prior theft. Messmore’s sentence is not the maximum
sentence, which was an option, but which typically is reserved for the worst of
the worst, see Simmons v. State, 962 N.E.2d 86, 92-93 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011);
rather, it was slightly enhanced. Although the trial court correctly found that
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 20A-CR-916 | November 19, 2020 Page 6 of 7
Messmore was remorseful and cooperated with police, Messmore has not cast
the nature of the offense in a positive light such that a downward revision of his
sentence would be appropriate.
[11] When considering a defendant’s character for purposes of Appellate Rule 7(B)
analysis, a defendant’s criminal history is one factor. Garcia v. State, 47 N.E.3d
1249, 1251 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), trans. denied. “A defendant’s life and conduct
are illustrative of his or her character.” Morris v. State, 114 N.E.3d 531, 539
(Ind. Ct. App. 2018). The significance of a criminal history varies based on the
gravity, nature, and number of prior offenses in relation to the current offense.
Id. Yet, even a minor criminal history is a poor reflection of a defendant’s
character. Moss v. State, 13 N.E.3d 440, 448 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied.
[12] Here, Messmore and the State proceeded to sentencing without the benefit of a
pre-sentence investigation report. However, it was established at the sentencing
hearing that Messmore has a criminal history including: (1) a March 21, 2011
conviction for Class B felony dealing in a schedule I controlled substance; (2) a
July 20, 2012 conviction for conversion; (3) a November 7, 2018 conviction for
Level 6 felony theft; and (4) a June 26, 2019 conviction for theft. Messmore
was on probation for his conviction of theft at the time he committed this
offense.
[13] “A single aggravator is sufficient to support an enhanced sentence.” Williams v.
State, 891 N.E.2d 621, 633 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). Messmore’s criminal history
is significant because the nature of his prior offenses is similar to his conduct
Court of Appeals of Indiana | Memorandum Decision 20A-CR-916 | November 19, 2020 Page 7 of 7
here. Messmore has failed to establish substantial virtuous traits or persistent
examples of good character such that his sentence warrants a downward
revision.

Outcome: For the reasons stated above, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

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