This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota,





Gregory John Padden,



Filed December 19, 2000


Forsberg, Judge*


Pine County District Court

File No. K5971086





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


John K. Carlson, Pine County Attorney, Pine County Courthouse, 315 Sixth Street, Pine City, MN 55063 (for respondent)


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



            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Forsberg, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.**

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Gregory John Padden challenges the district court’s refusal to depart from the presumptive 122-month sentence for his conviction of first-degree manslaughter.  We affirm.


Padden and Randy Fett discussed a trailer Fett’s son, George, was planning to sell.  When George arrived, the price of the trailer increased.  The parties were drinking and the discussion turned into an argument before Padden went home.  Fett and his sons, George and Jesse, went to Padden’s home where the argument resumed and escalated.  Ultimately, Padden shot Fett twice, killing him.

Padden was indicted by a grand jury for murder in the first degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185(1) (1996).  Padden waived his self-defense claim and entered an Alford plea1 to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the first degree, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.20(1).  Padden moved for a downward departure, claiming he had acted in self-defense, had a mental impairment, and was defending his home when the shots were fired.  The district court imposed the presumptive 122-month sentence.


            A departure from the sentencing guidelines rests within the district court’s discretion and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of that discretion.  State v. Spain, 590 N.W.2d 85, 88 (Minn. 1999).  Only in “rare” cases will a reviewing court reverse a district court’s imposition of the presumptive sentence.  State v. Kindem, 313 N.W.2d 6, 7 (Minn. 1981).  Even where grounds exist justifying departure, an appellate court will not ordinarily interfere with the imposition of the presumptive sentence.  State v. Back, 341 N.W.2d 273, 275 (Minn. 1983).

            In deciding whether to depart durationally, the sentencing court must decide whether the defendant’s conduct is more or less serious than that typically involved in the commission of the crime in question.  State v. Cox, 343 N.W.2d 641, 643 (Minn. 1984).  The sentencing court may depart if the defendant is “particularly amenable to probation or if offense-related mitigating circumstances are present.”  State v. Love, 350 N.W.2d 359, 361 (Minn. 1984).  Departure should occur in only a small number of cases.  Minn. Sent. Guidelines cmt. II.D.01.

Padden argues the district court abused its discretion in refusing to depart from the sentencing guidelines, pointing to several factors listed as mitigating factors in the sentencing guidelines.

First, Padden claims he was entitled to a downward departure, arguing that Fett was the aggressor.  See Minn. Sent. Guidelines, II.D.2.a.(1) (noting that a district court may find that the victim as an aggressor is a mitigating factor).  We disagree.  

Although Padden claimed his actions were in self-defense, a district court is not bound by the allegations made by a defendant entering an Alford plea.  See State v. Winchell, 363 N.W.2d 747, 749 (Minn. 1985) (holding courts are not bound by facts asserted when defendants plead “not very guilty.”).  While Fett went to Padden’s home and began arguing with Padden about the trailer deal, it is not clear that Fett was the only aggressor.  Padden’s own testimony indicates that he remained while the situation grew hostile and that he hit Fett with a sandpipe.  Moreover, Padden admitted that two state’s witnesses were going to testify that after the shooting he told them what to say when the police arrived.  We find no error in the district court’s refusal to depart on this basis.

Next, Padden claims that his mental capacity entitled him to a departure.  See Minn. Sent. Guidelines, II.D.2.a.(3) (noting that a district court may consider whether the offender, “because of physical or mental impairment, lacked substantial capacity for judgment when the offense was committed.”).   We disagree.  St. Peter Regional Treatment Center conducted a competency evaluation in accordance with the court’s directives.  The evaluation indicated that Padden’s diagnoses are “Schizophrenia, Paranoid Type, in partial remission (provisional).”  But it also indicated that “in our opinion, Mr. Padden’s mental illness is currently in sufficient remission that he is competent to proceed,” that “he does not require inpatient psychiatric treatment,” and that due to Mr. Padden’s decision not to fully discuss his legal situation during the course of the evaluation, “we are unable to offer an opinion concerning whether or not we would support a M’Naughten defense in his case.”  Given the information that was presented to the district court, we find no error in refusing to depart on this basis.

Padden also argues that because he was acting in self-defense and was trying to stop Fett from committing a felony at the home, he is entitled to a departure.   See Minn. Sent. Guidelines, II.D.2.a.(5) (noting that a district court may consider other substantial grounds that “tend to excuse or mitigate the offender’s culpability, although not amounting to a defense.”).  We are not persuaded. 

Padden’s reliance on State v. Hennum, 441 N.W.2d 793 (Minn. 1989), is misplaced.  The Hennum court determined that because “there was substantial evidence that the victim had subjected defendant to severe physical and mental abuse throughout their relationship,” and the victim had again attacked defendant on the night in question, defendant’s culpability was mitigated.  Id. at 801.  Here, the record evinces only one day of violence.  We also disagree with Padden’s argument that he is entitled to more consideration because the offense occurred while protecting his home.  Padden argues he was trying to protect his girlfriend when he ran out of the home, undermining his claim that he was protecting his home or trying to stop Fett from committing a felony therein. 

In his supplemental pro se brief, Padden claims he is remorseful.  The district court was presented with a PSI indicating that Padden demonstrated no remorse and that Padden stated that Randy Fett is “an S.O.B. who simply got what he deserved.”  Padden’s additional claim that Fett lived a life without remorse is not relevant.

Under these facts the district court could have reasonably decided that Padden was not less culpable than persons guilty of first-degree manslaughter.  This does not appear to be the “rare case,” contemplated by Hennum, where the court is “justified in interfering with the [district] court’s decision not to downwardly depart.”  Id.

We do not find any error in the district court’s refusal to characterize this case as one containing substantial and compelling reasons to depart from the presumptive sentence.      


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.


** Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.


1 See State v. Goulette, 258 N.W.2d 758 (Minn.1977) (adopting North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S. Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970)) (allowing a defendant to plead guilty based on the weight of the evidence without admitting actual guilt).