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Thornton v. Pietrzak

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 19, 2019

Randy L. Thornton, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Matthew Pietrzak, Stephanie Buttz, Eric Lee, and Dianna Johnson, [1] Appellees-Defendants.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49D11-1402-PL-3833 The Honorable John F. Hanley, Judge The Honorable Ian L. Stewart, Commissioner

          Attorney for Appellant Michael Ghosh The Ghosh Law Office, LLC Carmel, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellees Matthew Pietrzak and Stephanie Buttz Tara L. Gerber Office of Corporation Counsel Indianapolis, Indiana

          Kirsch, Judge.

         [¶1] Randy L. Thornton ("Thornton") appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Matthew Pietrzak ("Pietrzak"), Stephanie Buttz ("Buttz") (together, "Appellees"), Eric Lee ("Lee"), and Dianna Johnson ("Johnson"), who are all probation officers.[2] Thornton raises the following restated issue for our review: whether the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees because they are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In August 2006, Thornton pleaded guilty to Class C felony possession of cocaine in Cause No. 49G20-0605-FC-81612 ("Cause 81612"). He was sentenced by the Marion Superior Court Criminal Division ("the sentencing court") to six years with two years executed and four years suspended. Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 25, 65. The sentencing order ordered Thornton to serve two of those suspended years on probation following the executed portion of his sentence. Id. On August 6, 2007, the sentencing court issued an order requiring Thornton to begin his two-year probation period for the Class C Felony. Id. at 27, 66.

         [¶4] On February 7, 2008, Thornton was sentenced to three years executed in an unrelated case, Cause No. 49G06-0702-FA-28198 ("Cause 28198"). Id. at 76-77. On April 15, 2008, Lee, who was a probation officer in the Marion County Probation Department ("the probation department"), wrote a memo to the sentencing court from Cause No. 81612 that stated, in its entirety: "On 2-7-08, Mr. Thornton was given an executed sentence under Cause [28198] of 3 years. His Probation will resume under Cause [81612] when his executed portion is completed." Id. at 65-66, 81. This memo was approved and signed by Lee's supervisor, Johnson. Id. The sentencing court did not take any action regarding this memo. Id. at 86.

         [¶5] On August 20, 2010, Pietrzak, another probation officer, filed a notice of probation violation, which was reviewed by Buttz, another probation officer, and informed the sentencing court that Thornton had been arrested and charged with a new offense earlier that month. Id. at 27-28, 65-66, 91. Pietrzak noted, as Lee and Johnson had noted in their April 2008 memo, that Thornton's probation in Cause 81612 had been paused while he served time for his conviction in Cause 28198 and then resumed on April 5, 2010 upon completion of his sentence for that conviction. Id. at 91. Pietrzak's notice of probation violation stated in pertinent part, "Mr. Thornton was continued on Probation on 4/5/10 after serving an executed sentence on another case." Id.

         [¶6] An evidentiary hearing was held on the probation violation on February 10, 2011. At the hearing, Thornton argued that his August 2010 arrest did not violate the terms of his probation because his probation had ended in August 2009. Id. at 67. The sentencing court rejected that argument, found that Thornton had violated his probation, and ordered his previously-suspended four-year sentence executed in the Indiana Department of Correction. Id. at 28, 67.

         [¶7] While incarcerated, Thornton filed a motion to correct the erroneous probation revocation and sentence. On May 10, 2012, a hearing was held on Thornton's motion, and the sentencing court vacated the February 10, 2011 revocation of probation, stating in pertinent part:

The court being duly advised in the premises, the court sets aside the revocation of defendant's probation due to the fact that it's unclear whether the defendant's probation was tolled during the serving of an unrelated executed sentence. The court finding no case law on this issue, the court construes the law against the state and in favor of ...

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