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State v. Coats

January 16, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
AARON WAYNE COATS, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Spokane County. Docket No: 94-1-02339-1. Date filed: 04/21/95. Judge signing: Hon. Robert H. Whaley.

Petition for Review Denied June 3, 1997,

Authored by Philip J. Thompson. Concurring: Dennis J. Sweeney, John A. Schultheis.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson

THOMPSON, J. Mr. Coats pleaded guilty to four counts of first degree robbery and entered into a stipulation with regard to 27 other uncharged counts of first degree robbery. The court imposed an exceptional sentence of 240 months. Mr. Coats appeals contending the sentence violated the real facts doctrine and was an abuse of discretion. We affirm.

The State charged Mr. Coats with four counts of first degree robbery. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Mr. Coats pleaded guilty on all four counts. Referring specifically to RCW 9.94A.370, he stipulated that he committed 27 other counts of first degree robbery, but none of the additional crimes were to be charged. His standard range for each count was 129 to 171 months. During the same hearing, Mr. Coats also pleaded guilty to second degree assault, attempted second degree escape, and forgery. The assault and escape charges stemmed from an incident where he attempted to flee custody in a courtroom, after being detained for the robbery charges.

Mr. Coats was sentenced for all seven charges at the same time; thus, they constituted current offenses under the statute. Although Mr. Coats had an offender score of 12, the sentencing grid has a maximum offender score of 9. The standard range for each robbery count was 129 to 171 months. The standard ranges for the forgery, the assault and attempted escape were 17 to 22 months, 63 to 84 months, and 0 to 365 days respectively. In his findings, the Judge concluded Mr. Coats received two free crimes under the multiple offense policy. Thus, the court found a standard range sentence would (1) fail to punish Mr. Coats for one or more of his current crimes; (2) fail to recognize the impact of his 31 robberies and his level of criminality; (3) fail to recognize the aggravating facts of the case; and (4) fail to accomplish the purpose of the Sentencing Reform Act. The court then imposed an exceptional sentence of 240 months on each robbery conviction. Mr. Coats received standard range sentences for his other crimes.

Mr. Coats contends his exceptional sentence violated the real facts doctrine. The real facts doctrine requires sentences be based upon the defendant's current conviction, his criminal history, and the circumstances of the crime. State v. Tierney, 74 Wash. App. 346, 350, 872 P.2d 1145 (1994), cert. denied, 130 L. Ed. 2d 1107, 115 S. Ct. 1149 (1995). "Facts that establish the elements of a more serious crime or additional crimes may not be used to go outside the presumptive sentence range except upon stipulation . . . ."

RCW 9.94A.370(2).

A stipulation pursuant to RCW 9.94A.370 was entered by the parties in which Mr. Coats admitted to committing 31 crimes of first degree theft, only four of which were charged. At the guilty plea hearing the following exchange was had:

THE DEFENDANT: *fn1 In a nut, what we're presenting you is pleas of guilty to all charged counts, stipulation to the real facts underlying 27 other robberies, stipulation to restitution on uncharged counts, and the State will not press forward and charge those uncharged counts.

THE COURT: Does that accurately reflect the plea bargain, Mr. Ryan?

MR. RYAN [defense counsel]: Yes, it does, Your Honor.

At both the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, the State referred to the stipulation as a basis for an exceptional sentence. The defense did not object. Defense counsel admitted Mr. Coats stipulated to the 27 uncharged offenses, and acknowledged the State was asking the court to consider them.

Mr. Coats himself told the court he made the stipulation and hoped the court would enter a standard range sentence. The law does not require the stipulation to be as specific as Mr. Coats contends. The stipulation's reference to the statute and the use of the words "real facts" was sufficient ...


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