This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).







State of Minnesota,





Rhon Christopher Butler,




Filed May 16, 2000


Harten, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 97105171


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lyonel F. Norris, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant challenges the denial of his petition to withdraw his pleas of guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.  Because we see no abuse of discretion in the denial, we affirm.


On October 28, 1997, appellant Rhon Christopher Butler and an accomplice beat Rudy Pacheco to death using their fists, pipes, and a cast-iron wheel.  Later that evening, appellant sexually assaulted two women.  The state charged appellant with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree assault, and two counts of second-degree assault.

On February 2, 1999, appellant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a negotiated combined sentence of 375 months.  On June 9, 1999, appellant moved to withdraw his guilty pleas.  The district court denied his motion and sentenced him to 375 months.  This appeal followed. 


The decision whether to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea is within the sound discretion of the district court, and the court’s decision will be reversed only where there is an abuse of discretion.  Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. 1989). When credibility determinations are crucial in determining whether a guilty plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, a reviewing court will give deference to the primary observations and trustworthiness assessments made by the district court.  State v. Aviles-Alvarez, 561 N.W.2d 523, 527 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. June 11, 1997).  Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05 provides:

            Subd. 1.  To Correct Manifest Injustice.  The court shall allow a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice. * * * *

            Subd. 2.  Before Sentence.  In its discretion the court may also allow the defendant to withdraw a plea at any time before sentence if it is fair and just to do so * * *.


Appellant contends that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.  He advances two arguments in support of his position. 

            First, appellant argues that his plea was not voluntary, alleging that his attorney coerced him into pleading guilty.  He contends he was “mentally coerced” by an extended period of incarceration combined with the repeated assertion of his trial counsel that his cause was hopeless.  But the record does not support his claim of coercion.  Appellant testified as follows:

Q:  [I]s it correct that you are not entering a guilty plea today because        you’ve been held in custody all this time?


            A:  No, I’m not.


Q:  Has anyone, including your attorney or anyone else in law enforcement,

threatened you in any fashion or coerced you into entering a guilty plea?


            A:  No. 


Moreover, appellant testified that he reviewed the plea petition “a couple of times,” went over each item with his attorney, understood it, and signed the bottom of each page acknowledging that he understood it.  Accordingly, the record demonstrates that appellant’s plea was voluntary.   

            Second, appellant argues that his plea was not intelligently made because he “simply did not grasp that 375 months translated into 31 years and three months.”  But appellant testified as follows:

Q:  What was your understanding of what the sentence would be if you

entered a plea of guilty to the charges of murder in the second degree and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree.


A:  My understanding was I was looking at 375 months * * *.


Moreover, in the plea petition appellant agreed to a sentence of 375 months.  His purported miscalculation from months to years is not a manifest injustice.  We conclude that there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.