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State v. Ruggles

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 21, 2013

State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
Raymond Lonnie Ruggles, Appellant.

SYLLABUS

1. In contrast to issues involving a claim of cruel or unusual punishment under § 9 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights or a case-specific proportionality claim of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a categorical proportionality analysis under the Eighth Amendment does not require a review of the district court's factual findings. Instead, only questions of law are implicated. Accordingly, a categorical proportionality challenge to a sentence can be raised for the first time on appeal under the exception for questions of law that are determinative of the case and that arise on proven or admitted facts.

2. An appellate court applies an unlimited standard of review to a categorical proportionality challenge of a sentence under the Eighth Amendment.

3. A statute is presumed constitutional and all doubts must be resolved in favor of its validity. If there is any reasonable way to construe a statute as constitutionally valid, the court has the authority and the duty to do so.

4. In order for an individual to successfully raise a categorical challenge to a sentencing practice, the individual must satisfy the second prong of the categorical proportionality analysis, i.e., he or she must show that, based on the characteristics of the class of offender he or she belongs to and the nature of the offense at issue, the sentencing practice is disproportionate with the offender's culpability.

5. The law clearly presumes that people 18 years of age or older have reached a level of maturity that renders them fully culpable for the crimes they commit.

6. A hard 25 life sentence for an adult convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a child is not categorically disproportionate under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Appeal from Montgomery District Court; Roger L. Gossard, judge.

Korey A. Kaul, of Kansas Appellate Defender Office, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

David R. Maslen, assistant county attorney, argued the cause, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, was with him on the brief for appellee.

OPINION

Rosen, J.

Raymond Ruggles pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child in violation of K.S.A. 21-3504(a)(3)(B). Because Ruggles was over 18 years old when he committed these crimes, the district court, pursuant to K.S.A. 21-4643(a)(1)(C), imposed a life sentence with a mandatory minimum term of 25 years' imprisonment for each count and ordered the sentences to run consecutively. On appeal, Ruggles argues that K.S.A. 21-4643(a)(1)(C) violates the proscription against cruel and unusual punishment of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution because a hard 25 life sentence is disproportionate to the crime K.S.A. 21-3504(a)(3)(B) defines, i.e., soliciting a child under 14 years of age to "engage in any lewd fondling or touching of the person of another with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the child, the offender or another."

Facts

On May 12, 2009, the State charged Ruggles with four off-grid crimes: one count of rape in violation of K.S.A. 21-3502(a)(2), one count of aggravated criminal sodomy in violation of K.S.A. 21-3506(a)(1), and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child in violation of K.S.A. 21-3504(a)(3)(B). According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the complaint, on May 5, 2009, Ruggles' 11-year-old stepdaughter, J.L.S., reported to law enforcement that Ruggles had been sexually molesting her since she was 5 years old. J.L.S. described the sexual molestation as Ruggles having sexual intercourse with her, placing his penis inside her mouth, and performing oral sex on her. Additionally, J.L.S. told law enforcement that Ruggles had attempted to have her and her 13-year-old sister, K.A.B., masturbate him. After speaking with J.L.S., law enforcement spoke with K.A.B. who also said that Ruggles had attempted to have her and J.L.S. masturbate him at their residence. K.A.B. said that the incident occurred a few months before and that Ruggles had told them that their mother would be arrested and placed in jail if they told anyone about the incident.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Ruggles pleaded guilty to the two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child in exchange for the State dismissing the rape and aggravated criminal sodomy charges. At the plea hearing, the prosecutor gave the following factual basis for the guilty pleas:

"This case started out as a report to the school counselor . . . on May 5th of this year. At that time one of the stepdaughters of [Ruggles] met with [the counselor] and told her that she was being sexually abused by her father.
"At that time this victim knew [Ruggles] as her father. She did not know that she was a stepchild.
"She told the counselor while she's crying that she's not a virgin anymore, that her father had told her not to tell anyone because if she did her mother would go to jail along with him. This 13-year-old told the counselor about [Ruggles] molesting her repeatedly since she was five or six years old, sometime two to three ...

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