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State v. Halter

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

February 13, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
CHRISTINA HALTER, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Francois County Honorable Sandra Martinez Judge.

          Before Philip M. Hess, P.J., Robert G. Dowd, Jr., J. and Mary K. Hoff, J.

          PER CURIAM.

         Introduction

         Defendant/Appellant Christina Halter ("Halter") appeals judgment entered upon her conviction of financial exploitation of a disabled person and Medicaid fraud.[1] Halter raises six (6) points on appeal. Points I, II, and III raise allegations of instructional error and Points V and VI raise allegations of unauthorized civil penalties or restitution to the State. On these points, no jurisprudential purpose would be served by written opinion; accordingly, these points have been disposed of by summary order under Rule 30.25.[2]

         On Point IV, Halter argues the trial court erred in sentencing her to concurrent terms of imprisonment for thirty years on Counts III and IV for financial exploitation of a disabled person and exceeded its authority in also ordering her to pay restitution to the Victim.

         On Point IV, we agree with Halter the trial court erred in entering an unauthorized disposition sentencing her to imprisonment and restitution, and remand for resentencing. The judgment is affirmed in all other respects under Rule 30.25, with a separate written memorandum accompanying this order only for the use of the parties setting forth the reasons for the decision on the Points I, II, III, V, and VI.

         Factual Background

         At all relevant times from 2011 to 2013, Halter owned and managed Park Hills Manor LLC, a residential care facility caring for mentally disabled individuals. One such resident individual, J.B., was a veteran diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders. On September 18, 2012, Halter agreed to be appointed fiduciary of J.B.'s Veterans Administration funds. Halter affirmed she would, among other things: maintain a client trust account; deposit the individual's funds in a separate account; not commingle funds; disburse rent or mortgage money on a monthly basis; and disburse only for just expenses, including pocket money.

         Around November 16, 2012, J.B. approached a volunteer worker for Park Hills Manor and indicated he was to receive a large sum, $209, 000, from the V.A. and wanted to pay for his rent in advance out of fear of becoming homeless. Around this time, Halter deposited the $209, 000 to an operating account for her business rather than to a client trust account. She did not report the transaction. On November 19, 2012 and again on December 5, 2012, Halter signed contracts with J.B. for non-refundable year-long rental contracts totaling $115, 000. She did not report the transactions. Halter purchased three vehicles with the V.A. funds - one jointly titled to Halter and J.B., and the other two solely titled to Halter and her husband. By January 15, 2013, every dollar of the $209, 000 fund had been spent.

         For the two transactions for the pre-payment of rent, the State charged Halter with two counts of financial exploitation of a disabled person, under section 570.145 RSMo[3], class A felonies. The jury found Halter guilty on these charges and recommended terms of imprisonment for thirty (30) years for each of the financial exploitation charges.

         At her sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered her thirty year sentences on the financial exploitation convictions to run concurrently without possibility of probation. The State asked the trial court to order $115, 000 in restitution to J.B., the victim. Halter's trial counsel did not specifically object to imposition of the term of imprisonment and the restitution but called the felonies "probationable offenses" with "no provision for restitution."

         Preservation and Standard of Review

         Halter argues the trial court was constrained by then-applicable statutes and plainly erred when it exceeded its authority sentencing her to concurrent sentences of imprisonment for thirty years on two counts of financial exploitation of a disabled person, without possibility of probation, and also ordering her to pay $115, 000 in restitution.[4] The State opposes review procedurally by this Court on what it describes as invited error. The State also contends Section 557.011.5 RSMo permits a court to make any appropriate order exercising the authority conferred by law to decree, as part of a sentence, a ...


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