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Appeals court upholds sentence

In a decision filed Tuesday morning, the District III Court of Appeals affirmed a prison sentence for a man a St. Croix County judge believed was faking mental illness.

The decision upholds concurrent sentences totaling six years confinement and three years extended supervision for escape, burglary and stealing a vehicle.

Justin A. Malm, 23, is serving the initial term at Waupun Correctional Institution after a jury found him guilty on three counts in November 2004 and he was sentenced by Judge Scott Needham in April 2005.

Malm fled from a St. Croix Correctional Center crew working on a project in Hudson April 22, 2003. He then broke into a building in the town of Hudson before stealing a car from another residence. He was arrested four days later at his mother's house in Florence.

Malm appealed both the St. Croix County sentence and an order denying his motion for sentence modification.

According to the appeals court decision, Malm alluded to a "new factor," alleged his sentence was unduly harsh and argued that the sentence was based on a mistaken finding that he was feigning serious mental illness.

"The trial court denied the motion for resentencing, correctly noting that a person suffering from a mental illness is not necessarily incompetent to proceed," wrote the appeals court.

The court noted that Malm's competency was questioned throughout county proceedings, "resulting in multiple competency reports."

A psychologist's report presented before sentencing gave the opinion that Malm understood the proceedings and was able to participate meaningfully.

"That report also states that Malm's bizarre behavior and actions indicate deliberate malingering and manipulation and that he is disruptive when he does not get what he wants, which is to be sent to the Wisconsin Resource Center (a specialized mental health facility in Winnebago)," wrote the appeals court.

The decision continues, "At the sentencing hearing, in addition to considering the seriousness of the offenses, the effect on the victims, Malm's prior record and the need to protect the public, the court found that Malm acted in an intentional and calculated fashion, feigning mental illness in attempt to affect placement."

The appeals court decision also says Malm hasn't established any "new factor" to justify resentencing.