Appeals court rules judge abused court’s discretion
A 25-year-old Post Falls man who was sentenced to prison three years ago for having sex with a 14-year-old girl got a reprieve this week as a state appellate court ruled the sentencing decision may have been too hasty.
The Idaho Court of Appeals overturned a decision by First District Judge John Mitchell and sent the case back to district court in Kootenai County.
Brandon M. Thompson, who is in the Idaho State Correctional Institution Medical Unit in Boise, wasn’t scheduled for a parole hearing until 2025 after Mitchell sentenced him to two 10-year prison terms.
As part of a plea agreement, Thompson pleaded guilty in 2017 to two felony counts of injury to a child. Mitchell ordered the sentences to run back to back, instead of at the same time.
That means Thompson could have stayed behind bars until 2037, but Appeals Court judges said Mitchell abused the court’s discretion when he ordered Thompson to take — and pass — polygraph tests regarding the incident with the 14-year-old.
Police said Thompson, then 22, was in a dating relationship with the 14-year-old victim when they had sex several times over a two-month period. He told the court he was under the impression that the victim’s mother knew about and condoned the relationship, but Mitchell accused Thompson of lying in court and ordered a polygraph.
Although Thompson “passed” the polygraph, according to the appellate court, Mitchell accused Thompson of not coming clean and ordered a lengthy prison term.
“You have got to be assessed and admit what you’ve done on all fronts and come back with a report and a polygraph that shows me that you’re truthful on all these issues,” Mitchell ordered. “... If you don’t come clean about what you lied (about) ... and pass a polygraph, I won’t listen. You’ll go to prison.”
However, in her opinion Chief Judge Molly J. Huskey wrote in a decision filed Wednesday that Thompson had “passed” the polygraphs, although the specific questions Mitchell wanted asked were not part of the questioning.
“The district court had not specifically articulated which questions the polygraph examiner should ask,” Huskey wrote. “Because the district court’s order was unclear about the specific questions to be asked during the polygraph, it was an abuse of discretion to (send Thompson to prison) pursuant to the district court’s ambiguous order.”
Judges Amanda K. Brailsford and Jessica M. Lorello concurred with Huskey’s decision.