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STATE OF MONTANA v. ANGELA MARIE SPROUT
Case Number: DA 19-0408
Judge: Laurie McKinnon
Court: IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
Plaintiff's Attorney: Austin Knudsen, Montana Attorney General, Jonathan M. Krauss,
Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
Terryl T. Matt, Glacier County Attorney, Joe Sherwood, Deputy County
Attorney, Cut Bank, Montana
Helena, Montana - No Criminal defense attorney represented Angela Marie Sprout with felony custodial interference and misdemeanor violation of order of protection charges.
On January 2, 2018, Sprout was charged with felony custodial interference,
misdemeanor criminal contempt, and misdemeanor violation of order of protection
(VOOP). On July 17, 2018, Sprout pleaded guilty to felony VOOP, in violation of
§ 45-5-626(1), MCA, pursuant to a plea agreement and acknowledgment of waiver of
rights. The plea agreement amended the VOOP to a felony (based on Sprout’s history of
prior offenses), dismissed the remaining two charges, and recommended a three-year
deferred imposition of sentence and a $500 fine, all of which would be suspended for a
period of one year.
¶4 The District Court entered a judgment of conviction for felony VOOP and a
three-year deferred imposition of sentence, including 35 enumerated conditions and a
$500 fine. The District Court’s stated reasons for the deferred sentence were that both
parties signed the plea agreement, it was consistent with Montana statutes regarding
sentencing, the offense was a first felony offense, and Sprout was young and gainfully
employed. The conditions of Sprout’s deferred sentence, in relevant part, included 3
employment requirements and restrictions on contact with Shawn Weissenfluh, who had
custody of the parties’ child pursuant to an Interim Parenting Plan (parenting plan) in an
ongoing custody case in Glacier County. The relevant conditions of probation stated:
4) [Sprout] must seek and maintain employment or maintain a program
approved by the Board of Pardons and Parole or the supervising officer.
Unless otherwise directed by her supervising officer, [Sprout] must inform
her employer and any other person or entity, as determined by the
supervising officer, of her status on probation, parole, or other community
27) [Sprout] shall not knowingly have any contact, oral, written, electronic
or through a third party, with [Weissenfluh] unless such contact is
voluntarily initiated by [Weissenfluh] through the Department of
Corrections. DOC staff may notify [Weissenfluh] about the availability of
opportunities for facilitated contact with [Sprout] without being considered
“third parties.” Contact with Shawn Weissenfluh is permitted provided it
occurs in accordance with the terms of any parenting plan that is in place at
the time of contact.
The District Court had modified condition 27 from its original language upon Sprout’s
request, allowing Sprout to contact Weissenfluh to facilitate contact with their child
pursuant to the parenting plan.
¶5 On the record, the District Court expressed its concerns about Sprout’s ability to
comply with the terms and conditions of the deferred sentence based on her misdemeanor
criminal history that reflected she had difficulty complying with court orders in at least
two states. The court advised Sprout that if her sentence was revoked, the court would be
required to sentence her and that she would need to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail
and could possibly serve up to two years. The court stressed the importance of
complying with the terms and conditions of her sentence. Sprout had no questions 4
regarding her sentence at the time and did not appeal the judgment, deferred sentence, or
any of the terms or conditions of the deferred sentence.
¶6 Sprout violated both condition 4 and condition 27, and the State filed a report of
violations and a petition to revoke her deferred sentence. The State alleged that Sprout
had been emailing Weissenfluh about matters not related to the parenting plan and that he
felt “threatened and harassed”; the report included 27 emails from Sprout to Weissenfluh.
The State also alleged that Sprout failed to maintain employment and had been
terminated from employment. The District Court held a hearing advising Sprout of the
alleged violations and her rights regarding the petition to revoke her deferred sentence.
Sprout entered a general denial to both alleged violations.
¶7 At the evidentiary hearing on revocation, Sprout’s probation officer,
John Madigan, Weissenfluh, and Sprout all testified. The District Court admitted
Sprout’s 27 emails, the parenting plan, and Sprout’s exhibits, all without objection.
Based on the evidence and testimony presented, the District Court found that Sprout
violated condition 27 of the deferred sentence—restricting contact with Weissenfluh,
other than as allowed and necessary to implement the parenting plan. The court also
found that Sprout violated condition 4 of the deferred sentence, regarding Sprout’s
employment. Specifically, the court found that Sprout failed to notify her
probation officer that she was no longer employed and that her probation officer learned
of Sprout’s unemployment on his own from Sprout’s former employer. The court
concluded that the proven violations were in material breach of Sprout’s previously
deferred imposition of sentence and revoked the deferred imposition of sentence.5
¶8 The court concluded that the violations were not compliance violations because
Sprout continued to stalk and harass Weissenfluh and Sprout’s history indicated that
Sprout would not be responsive to any further efforts by the Department of Corrections,
Probation and Parole, to bring her into compliance with the terms and conditions of the
deferred sentence. The District Court entered judgment and sentenced Sprout to a
two-year commitment to the Department of Corrections, with no time suspended and no
credit for street time served. The court re-imposed the same conditions that were part of
the deferred sentence, with the exception of condition 27, which was modified. The
modified condition required Sprout to complete a mental health and parenting evaluation,
and it prohibited any contact with Weissenfluh, their child, or any of the child’s paternal
relatives until evaluations were completed.
¶9 The issue raised on appeal is whether the District Court properly and within its
discretion revoked Sprout’s deferred sentence based on her violation of the imposed
conditions of her sentence. Sprout maintains the original sentence was invalid, illegal,
and should be overturned because it was not “reasonably related to the objectives of
rehabilitation and the protection of the victim and society” as required under
§ 46-18-202(1)(g), MCA. She further argues the original sentence was not
“certain, consistent, and understandable” as required under § 46-18-101(3)(a), MCA.
The basis of this argument is Sprout’s contention that condition 27 was illegal. She
argues the original sentence, through condition 27, referenced and made controlling the
parenting plan without knowing whether it existed, without knowing its contents, without
being able to control it or its subsequent modification, without knowing whether the 6
document accomplished the court’s actual or lawful sentencing desires and intentions,
and without knowing whether the document conformed to Montana’s laws regarding
sentencing. For these reasons, Sprout also argues her deferred sentence could not have
been lawfully revoked for violating a condition that was illegal in the first place. She
argues that her revocation sentence was, therefore, illegal.
¶10 We review a district court’s decision to revoke a deferred sentence to determine
whether the decision was supported by a preponderance of the evidence and, if so,
whether the district court abused its discretion. State v. Belanger, 2008 MT 383, ¶ 9,
347 Mont. 61, 196 P.3d 1248 (citing §§ 46-18-203(6)-(7), MCA). A single violation of
the conditions of a suspended or deferred sentence is sufficient to support a
district court’s revocation of that sentence. See State v. Gillingham, 2008 MT 38, ¶ 28,
341 Mont. 325, 176 P.3d 1075; see also State v. Rudolph, 2005 MT 41, ¶ 13,
326 Mont. 132, 107 P.3d 496, overruled on other grounds by State v. Tirey,
2010 MT 283, 358 Mont. 510, 247 P.3d 701. This Court reviews a criminal sentence for
legality; that is, whether the sentence is within statutory parameters. State v. Tracy,
2005 MT 128, ¶ 12, 327 Mont. 220, 113 P.3d 297. This determination is a question of
law; as such, our review is de novo. State v. Kirkbride, 2008 MT 178, ¶ 9,
343 Mont. 409, 185 P.3d 340.
¶11 Upon the revocation of a deferred sentence, a district court may “impose any
sentence that might have been originally imposed.” Section 46-18-203(7)(a)(iv), MCA.
A person has the right to be sentenced under statutes that are in effect at the time of the
offense. Tracy, ¶ 16. The relevant statute in effect at the time Sprout committed the 7
offense provided: “Upon conviction for a third or subsequent offense, an offender shall
be fined not less than $500 and not more than $2,000 and be imprisoned in the county jail
or state prison for a term not less than 10 days and not more than 2 years.”
Section 45-5-626(3), MCA (2017).
¶12 On appeal, Sprout has not made any claim or argument that the District Court
abused its discretion in revoking her deferred sentence based on a preponderance of the
evidence that she violated two conditions of the deferred sentence. The appellant bears
the burden of establishing error on appeal and this Court will not address an issue absent
authority or developed argument. State v. Longfellow, 2008 MT 343, ¶ 18,
346 Mont. 286, 194 P.3d 694. Sprout has not assigned any error or made any argument,
under the correct standard of review of the District Court’s revocation order, nor has she
made any claim or argument that the two-year Department of Corrections commitment
imposed upon revocation was outside the statutory parameters for sentencing an offender
convicted of felony VOOP. See §§ 45-5-626(3), 46-18-203(7)(a)(iv), MCA.
¶13 Sprout did not appeal her original judgment of conviction and deferred imposition
of sentence on any grounds—rendering it final and presumptively valid, correct, and
legal. Yet, Sprout’s appeal rests entirely on the alleged illegality of her original sentence.
In this direct appeal of the revocation of her deferred sentence, Sprout raises, for the first
time, a collateral challenge to the legality of condition 27. That issue and argument is not
properly before this Court on appeal of her revocation order. See State v. Rice,
275 Mont. 81, 85, 910 P.2d 245, 247 (1996) (“A defendant has sixty days in which to
appeal a final judgment. A final judgment includes a sentence . . . . [A] judgment 8
[that] includes a deferred sentence is final for purposes of appeal.”); see also
M. R. App. P. 4(5)(b); §§ 46-1-202(25), 46-21-102(1)(a), MCA. Moreover, because
Sprout has failed to support her argument with citation to legal authority as required by
the Montana Rules of Appellate Procedure; to preserve the issue for appeal; or to argue
an exception to the contemporaneous objection rule, we decline to address her claim
regarding the illegality of her original sentence in this appeal. State v. Clausell,
2001 MT 62, ¶¶ 48-49, 305 Mont. 1, 22 P.3d 1111; see M. R. App. P. 12(e)-(g). As we
have previously held, “[i]t is not this Court’s obligation to conduct legal research on an
appellant’s behalf or to develop legal analysis that may lend support to his [or her]
position.” Clausell, ¶ 48.
¶14 We need not reach Sprout’s claim that condition 27 was illegal, because the
revocation was also based on another violation—condition 4, regarding employment—
alleged and proved by a preponderance of the evidence. Sprout does not challenge this
condition on appeal. Because a single violation of the conditions of a deferred sentence
is sufficient to support the District Court’s revocation of that sentence, the court’s finding
that Sprout violated the employment condition is a valid basis for revocation and is
dispositive. Thus, even if Sprout’s claim that condition 27 was illegal had any legal
merit, or was properly before this Court, the District Court properly and within its
discretion revoked the deferred sentence based on the proven and undisputed violation of
¶15 Because Sprout raised no issue and provided no argument or authority against
reversal on those grounds, we affirm the revocation order and sentence.9
¶16 We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c) of
our Internal Operating Rules, which provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion
of the Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled law or by the clear
application of applicable standards of review.
Comments: Comment by Ms. Sprout: "If the idea is to present advertisements for criminal defense attorneys, you would do well to rethink this in my case as I was not represented by one. I also was not represented on all charges as the state acknowledged before a plea deal it could not bring the other two charges and should not have as there was nothing that met the statutes to have me before the court on them. "