Arkansas Court of Appeals upholds revocation of SIS after felon fails to pay cost and restituton
The Arkansas Court of Appeals Division III on Wednesday affirmed an October 11, 2021 decision by the Sebastian County Circuit Court revoking a suspended imposition of sentence on a local man for two offenses after failing to pay almost $25,000 in restitution and court cost.
Steven Lee Young Jr. argued on appeal that the evidence did not support the revocation of his suspended imposition of sentence. The appellate court allowed the lower court ruling to stand.
Young pleaded guilty to theft by deception, a Class B felony, in March 2009. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment followed by eight years’ SIS. He was also ordered to pay $275 a month toward restitution in the amount of $24,527. The payment was a condition of his SIS.
In November 2014, Young pleaded guilty to a new offense, second-degree forgery (a Class C felony). For this,he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment followed by an additional five years’ SIS. He was also ordered to pay $60 a month toward new restitution in the amount of $400. He was ordered to continue paying restitution in his prior case. He was also ordered to pay court costs of $250.
Young’s imprisonment for the forgery conviction ended on August 27, 2015. On March 23, 2017, the prosecutor filed a petition to revoke in both cases, alleging that Young had failed to pay toward the restitution ordered in the 2009 case since August 2016, leaving a balance of $24,362.
Regarding the 2014 case, he had not paid at all toward the restitution or the costs and fees. The case was continued by agreement with the State to see if Young would make payments.
A revocation hearing was held on October 28, 2019. At the hearing, the State introduced the ledgers showing what payments Young had made and what balances were due toward all the restitution, fines, and fees owed by Young, showing that a balance of $24,376.34 remained on the restitution, fines, and fees in both cases.
Young was arrested in Fort Smith on Absconding and Failure to Appear as well as a Parole Violation on August 6 of last year. He was transferred into the state prison system ten days later.
Young said that he is a disabled veteran who suffers from schizophrenia. He drew 30% Veterans Affairs disability from 2009 until 2017. During that time,he traveled around working odd jobs and then helping his family. In 2017, he began drawing 100% disability for his severe schizophrenia in the amount of about $3300 a month.
When asked why he missed payments even after being awarded full disability, he explained that when he failed to appear in a different revocation case and a bench warrant was issued,he became ineligible to receive VA benefits, causing overpayments.
He said that he owed the VA $22,873.29 due to payments improperly received under his fugitive status. To recoup the overpayment, his benefits were “turned off” in July 2020, but he said he was able to get them restored by making a payment arrangement wherein the VA would withhold $329 from each check to pay down the balance.
He said he did not receive VA benefits for “about five or six months.” Young explained that he had also defaulted on some outstanding payday loans that also come out of his check. Young testified that he had been in jail for a while but had paid a $1,000 cash bond to get out. He volunteered to pay $1000 a month starting on the first of the next month to “get this thing over with.”
The judge found by a preponderance of the evidence that Young had violated the terms and conditions of his SIS. Despite the fact that Young had failed to appear three times since February 2018, the court had continued the case four times so that Young could make payments, and Young had not made any payments since October 2018,
The court postponed sentencing for three months to allow Young one last opportunity to pay. A sentencing hearing was set for January 2020. Young failed to appear. It was October 2021 when a sentencing hearing was held. He had made one payment of $1,000 in October 2019.
When asked why, he said he had been having medical problems,and his family was misusing his funds. The court stated that "[m]y problem in trusting Mr. Young is that he has proven to be untrustworthy. He didn’t live up to his obligations to the Court prior to the hearing. He didn’t live up to his word after the hearing. He has failed to appear four different times. So, I think it would be beyond naïve of me to trust him at this point. Again, I just can’t trust [Mr. Young] at this point. I am taking into account, first of all, the amount of restitution, the fact that Mr. Young has on four occasions absented himself from court".
Young was sentenced to five years’ incarceration followed by thirteen years SIS for the 2009 charge and five years’ incarceration for the 2014 charge, with the sentences to run concurrently. Young asserted that he had not made consistent payments because he was unable to do so.
According to the opinion released by the court, while the statute governing revocations requires the "circuit court’s consideration of certain factors in determining whether a party’s inability to pay is inexcusable, the statute does not require explicit findings of fact on those factors. The court twice stated that it did not find Young credible. Young has had an obligation to pay fines, fees, and restitution since 2009. He was not sentenced until 2021. In that entire time, he made seven payments, the most recent one in October 2019. The court and the judicial system gave him every opportunity to make payments, and even excusing the time he was not on full disability or his disability was cut off, there were several stretches of years of nonpayment."