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State v. Watson

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 27, 2019

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
James Glenn Watson, Defendant and Appellant State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
James Glenn Watson, Defendant and Appellant State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
James Glenn Watson, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeals from the District Courts of Golden Valley, Hettinger, and Stark County, Southwest Judicial District, the Honorable William A. Herauf, Judge.

          Christina M. Wenko (argued) and Olivia L. Krebs (appeared), Dickinson, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Kevin McCabe, Dickinson Public Defender Office, Dickinson, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] James Watson appeals after a jury found he was guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child in Golden Valley County, he conditionally pled guilty to sexual assault in Hettinger County, and he conditionally pled guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child in Stark County. Watson argues the district court erred by granting continuances in all three cases and violated his statutory speedy trial rights. We conclude the court did not abuse its discretion by granting the State's motions for continuances in the Hettinger and Stark County cases. But Watson's statutory speedy trial right was violated in the Golden Valley County case because trial did not begin within 90 days of Watson's speedy trial election and the district court did not find good cause for the delay. We affirm the Hettinger and Stark County judgments and reverse the Golden Valley County judgment and remand.

         I

         [¶2] This case involves consolidated appeals from district court cases in Hettinger County, Stark County, and Golden Valley County. Although the issues raised on appeal are similar and the victim and defendant are the same in each case, we address the facts of each case separately.

         A Golden Valley County

         [¶3] On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Golden Valley County with one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The complaint alleged Watson engaged in sexual conduct or sexual acts on at least a weekly basis with a child under the age of 15 during the fall of 2011 through December 2011.

         [¶4] On October 2, 2017, Watson was arraigned. On October 3, 2017, Watson filed and electronically served a speedy trial request under N.D.C.C. §§ 29-01-06 and 29-19-02. A jury trial was scheduled for December 27, 2017. The trial was later rescheduled for January 3-5, 2018.

         [¶5] On December 14, 2017, the State moved for a continuance. The State argued good cause existed for the court to grant a continuance because the investigation was ongoing, law enforcement released additional information, and the State wanted additional time to review the new information and make Watson an offer. The State also claimed it had a scheduling conflict because the jury trial was tentatively scheduled for January 3-5, 2018, and the State's Attorney had a jury trial scheduled in a different case on January 5, 2018. Watson objected to the State's motion.

         [¶6] On December 15, 2017, the district court advised the parties the jury trial was scheduled for January 3-5, 2018 as a backup trial due to problems with the court's schedule. The court recommended the State prepare as if the case would be going to trial on the dates scheduled unless the court specifically ordered a continuance.

         [¶7] On December 20, 2017, the district court denied the State's motion for a continuance. The court considered Watson's right to a speedy trial and whether the State had shown good cause for a continuance. The court found good cause did not exist based on the State's request for more time to investigate. The court found any conflict with another case scheduled for trial on the same day was not applicable because the judge also would be involved in that case if it did not settle, and no conflict would exist if it did settle. The court denied the State's request.

         [¶8] The trial was not held on January 3-5, 2018. There is no information in the record about the trial until January 22, 2018, when an amended notice of trial was filed, rescheduling the jury trial to January 31-February 2, 2018. The trial was held, and the jury found Watson guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Watson was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

         B Hettinger County

         [¶9] On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Hettinger County with two counts of gross sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03, a class AA felony; and one count of gross sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03, a class A felony. The complaint alleged Watson engaged in a sexual act or sexual contact with the victim when he was between the ages of 48 and 50 and the victim was between 15 and 18, and he compelled the victim to submit by force or threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury.

         [¶10] On October 2, 2017, Watson was arraigned and a criminal information was filed charging him with one count of gross sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03, a class AA felony. On October 3, 2017, Watson filed and electronically served a speedy trial request under N.D.C.C. §§ 29-01-06 and 29-19-02.

         [¶11] The jury trial was scheduled for December 27, 2017. An amended notice of trial was later entered, stating the jury trial would be held on December 27-29, 2017. On December 18, 2017, the State moved for a continuance. The State alleged good cause existed for the delay because the victim was a necessary witness and she was unavailable for trial on December 28-29, 2017.

         [¶12] On December 20, 2017, the district court advised the parties the State must comply with N.D.C.C. § 29-19-06 for the court to properly consider whether a continuance should be granted based upon the unavailability of a witness. The State filed a supplemental brief in support of its motion. Watson objected to the State's motion.

         [¶13] On December 22, 2017, the district court granted the State's motion, finding the State's supplemental brief supplied the information required by N.D.C.C. § 29-19-06. The court concluded the State had shown good cause to delay the trial beyond the 90-day requirement based on the witness's unavailability. The court continued the trial to January 31-February 2, 2018. An amended notice rescheduled the trial for February 7-9, 2018.

         [¶14] The parties reached a plea agreement under which the State amended the gross sexual imposition charge to a sexual assault charge. On March 13, 2018, an amended criminal information was entered, charging Watson with one count of sexual assault in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-07, a class C felony. Watson entered a conditional Alford plea of guilty to the amended charge. Watson was sentenced to five years in prison, with credit for time served. A criminal judgment was entered.

         C Stark County

         [¶15] On June 30, 2017, Watson was charged in Stark County with continuous sexual abuse of a child in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-20-03.1, a class AA felony. The State alleged Watson engaged in sexual contact or acts on a weekly ...


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