KOKOMO, Ind. — A Kokomo man who pleaded guilty to defrauding a number of seniors on construction projects will now serve the rest of his sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction. This comes after the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s judgment in the man’s probation violation case.
Dennis Sanders pleaded guilty in May 2022 to one count of home improvement fraud and corrupt business influence. He was sentenced to more than 10 years on probation and ordered to pay more than $88,000 in restitution.
According to previous reports, Sanders had contracts with a number of senior citizens to do construction projects around their respective houses. Sanders did not finish the jobs and took their money in the process.
In December 2022 while serving his probation, Sanders was charged with two misdemeanors related to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, which violated his terms of probation. While he initially pleaded not guilty to the violation, the documents state that he admitted to the misdemeanors during a hearing.
In response to the probation violation, the trial court ruled that Sanders serve the remainder of his sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction, a ruling which Sanders appealed. According to appeal documents, Sanders argued that:
- The court violated due process by failing to properly inform Sanders of the rights he waived before he admitted to violating probation;
- The court abused its discretion in denying Sanders’ motion to continue the Jan. 27, 2023 sentencing hearing;
- The court abused its discretion when it revoked probation and ordered Sanders to serve the remainder of his sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction.
According to the decision, Sanders claims that the court failed to let him know the rights he would waive by admitting to violating his probation. However, the appeals court said that it was clear during the hearing, stating he was advised that he has the right to a hearing where the state is required to prove the allegations, a right which he waived in front of his counsel.
“In short, the record is anything but silent – the evidence before us demonstrates that the court properly informed Sanders of his rights and he was aware he was waiving those protections by admitting to the probation violation,” the documents read. “Sanders has failed to establish a violation of his due process rights.”
Prior to the sentencing hearing, Sanders requested that the hearing be continued for multiple reasons, including that he got a new attorney, a key witness was unavailable for the hearing and that he was suffering from vertigo. The court initially gave Sanders a one-day continuance, which turned into three because of inclement weather.
The appeals court said in its decision that Sanders’ new attorney came on the case the day before the sentencing hearing and that the previous attorney was still on the case.
The court also ruled that while Sanders believed that the unavailable witness was material to his defense, the record states that four others with knowledge of his character and community involvement already testified.
Specifically regarding the claims of vertigo, the court said that Sanders did not provide the court a document from a physician or hospital official regarding the illness.
In regards to the third argument from Sanders, the court said:
“Sanders argues that the trial court should have considered his remorse, his willingness to continue making payments on the restitution order and his community involvement as some of the factors that weighed against the revocation of probation. The bottom line is that Sanders violated the terms of his probation when he committed (the misdemeanor crimes)…”
The appeals court said that the restitution payments “fell far short of the amount needed to make progress” and he made “little effort to find permanent employment and urged the court to allow him to return to a job that would have placed him in contact with felons, a violation of his probation.”