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from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit,
St. Lucie County; Gary L. Sweet, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Haughwout, Public Defender, and Patrick B. Burke, Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Joseph D. Coronato,
Jr., Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for
challenges her sentence after a no contest plea. She sought a
downward departure based upon her mental disorder, but the
trial court declined to depart. We reverse, because the court
erroneously concluded that her mental condition must be
connected to the criminal behavior in order to constitute a
ground for departure.
pled no contest to one count of engaging in sexual activity
with a minor who was sixteen or seventeen at the time of the
offense. She was a teacher at a college where she met the
victim. He was a high school student in a dual enrollment
program at the college. At sentencing, she sought a downward
departure sentence under section 921.0026(2)(d), Florida
Statutes (2018), which provides that mitigating circumstances
exist where "The defendant requires specialized
treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to
substance abuse or addiction ... and the defendant is
amenable to treatment." Appellant has such a disorder.
Appellant had been the victim of childhood abuse, the details
of which were part of a confidential sentencing report
available to the court. She was continually treated for
current mental health counselor testified at the sentencing
hearing. She was treating appellant for bipolar disorder,
including hypersexual behaviors which were part of the
disorder. Appellant had made progress, and the therapist was
confident that she would continue to make progress if she
continued her path of treatment. The mental health counselor
testified that she believed there is a relationship between
the childhood trauma, appellants bipolar disorder, and her
recent behaviors. Asked by the court what connection there
was, the therapist explained that the childhood trauma,
combined with the bipolar disorder, impacts appellants
appellant testified, the court denied the motion for downward
departure. Specifically, the court stated:
There were two possible mitigators. One is the mental health
issue and the other one might have been the -- that the
victim was a willing participant, but I didnt really hear
evidence of that fact. And Im not convinced that I
see the connection between the mental health and the conduct.
So I dont think there are grounds to depart.
(emphasis added) The court imposed a sentence of sixty-six
months, the lowest permissible sentence under the Criminal
Punishment Code, and two years of sex offender program. The