This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Charles Anthony Yanez,
Filed August 28, 2001
Norman County District Court
File No. K90032
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Susan Rantala-Nelson, Norman County Attorney, 318 East Main Street, Ada, MN 56510 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Willis
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from his conviction of second-degree controlled-substance crime and aiding and abetting first- and second-degree controlled-substance crime, Charles Yanez argues that the evidence is insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he was predisposed to commit a crime when he became involved in drug transactions initiated by his wife, a government informant. Specifically, Yanez contends the trial court abused its discretion in crediting his wife’s testimony that he participated in the transactions willingly and discrediting testimony that Yanez had not been involved with drugs before December 1999. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in assessing the witnesses’ credibility and the evidence amply supports Yanez’s conviction, we affirm.
In January 2000, the state charged Charles Yanez in three separate complaints with first- and second-degree controlled-substance crime and with aiding and abetting in the commission of first- and second-degree controlled-substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, subd. 1(1), 3(b), 152.022, subd. 1(1), 3(b), 609.05 (2000). Charles Yanez’s wife, Bobbie, a government informant, set up the drug transactions resulting in the charges against her husband. Bobbie Yanez had become a confidential informant for the Polk/Norman/Mahnomen County Drug Task Force in December 1999 to obtain a more lenient sentence on a recent North Dakota drug conviction. The task force recruited Bobbie Yanez to assist in its investigation of Armando Mata, a suspected drug dealer. Mata was a friend of the Yanezes and visited the Yanez residence frequently.
The first transaction Bobby Yanez set up took place on December 21, 1999, after she arranged a meeting between an undercover agent and Noel Dean Jetty, a known drug dealer, for the sale of an eight-ball of cocaine. Charles Yanez was present at the meeting. After a brief discussion about the price, the agent gave Charles Yanez $300 to $350 for one-fourth of an ounce of cocaine. Charles Yanez got the cocaine and gave it to Bobbie Yanez, who turned it over to the agent. When the agent asked Charles Yanez if he could buy more cocaine from him, Charles Yanez replied that the agent would have to deal with Bobbie. After the agent left, Yanez stepped on his wife’s foot and said, “You f-----g bitch, if you set me up, I’m going to kill you.”
The second transaction took place on January 12, 2000, when another undercover agent came to the Yanez residence with John Sistad, Bobbie Yanez’s brother, to buy drugs. Charles Yanez insisted on travelling with Jetty to get the drugs for Sistad because he did not trust Jetty. Charles Yanez told the undercover agent he wanted to be involved in the transaction to avoid being “ripped off.” Sistad gave Charles Yanez $750. When Charles Yanez and Jetty returned with the drugs, Jetty gave Sistad the drugs. In response to Sistad’s complaint about the amount of drugs he received then and had received on a previous occasion, Charles Yanez admitted that the amount he had given Sistad in December was “light” and stated they “were running out of the stuff.” He assured Sistad that drug amounts would be more accurate in future transactions.
The third transaction took place on January 26, 2000, when Bobbie Yanez arranged a meeting with Mata to buy one-half of an ounce of cocaine. Charles Yanez insisted on accompanying his wife to meet Mata because he was jealous and did not trust Bobbie Yanez to be alone with Mata. At the meeting, Mata told the Yanezes he had one ounce of cocaine he needed to split. But because Charles Yanez could not get a heater started, the three decided to go back to the Yanez residence in Halstad to split the cocaine.
When Mata and the Yanezes returned to Halstad, Charles Yanez left to get gas. Bobbie Yanez and Mata proceeded to the Yanez residence, where Bobbie Yanez gave Mata $1,200. After Charles Yanez returned, he and Mata split the cocaine. The police later arrested Yanez and Mata and obtained a search warrant for the Yanez residence. The search disclosed the remaining half-ounce of cocaine, a mirror, a scale, and a pipe.
The state charged Charles Yanez with first- and second-degree-controlled substance crime, and he raised entrapment as a defense. In April 2000, Charles Yanez moved to have the district court decide as a matter of law whether state agents had induced him to commit the crimes charged. After a hearing at which the court received only evidence submitted by Charles Yanez, the court concluded that Yanez had met his burden of proving by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the state had induced the commission of the crimes charged.
The court then held another hearing to determine if Yanez was predisposed to commit the crimes charged. At the hearing on the predisposition issue, Bobbie Yanez testified that Mata and Charles Yanez had used cocaine together and that Mata had given Charles Yanez cocaine in exchange for fixing his car. She also stated that Charles Yanez knew she was cooperating with North Dakota authorities in a burglary investigation, but did not know she was cooperating with Minnesota authorities in their investigation of Mata. Deputy sheriff Randy Sondrol testified Charles Yanez had insisted on being involved in drug transactions between his wife and Mata. Yanez’s witnesses, on the other hand, testified that they had never seen Charles Yanez use or sell drugs and that he did not have a reputation for using or selling drugs.
The district court credited the testimony of the state’s witnesses and found that Charles Yanez had willingly participated in the drug buys his wife orchestrated, not knowing she was involved with the drug task force. The court also found that Charles Yanez had a prior conviction for sale and delivery of a controlled substance, admitted to using cocaine, had contacts with known drug dealers, and had a criminal reputation among drug users and dealers. Based on these findings, the court concluded that Charles Yanez was predisposed to commit the crimes charged.
Yanez waived his right to a jury trial and stipulated to the state’s case. In July, the district court found Yanez guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree controlled-substance crime in December 1999, committing second-degree controlled-substance crime on January 12, 2000, and aiding and abetting first-degree controlled-substance crime on January 26, 2000. The district court imposed the presumptive sentence. This appeal followed.
In reviewing a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge, the reviewing court’s role is limited to a thorough review of the record to determine if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, sufficiently supports the conviction. State v. Church, 577 N.W.2d 715, 719 (Minn. 1998). Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences drawn from those facts could reasonably lead the fact-finder to conclude that the defendant committed the crimes charged. State v. Spann, 574 N.W.2d 47, 54 (Minn. 1998). In reviewing the evidence, this court must assume the fact-finder believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved contradictory evidence. Id.
To raise the entrapment defense, a defendant must show by a fair preponderance of the evidence that the government induced the commission of the crime. State v. Vaughn, 361 N.W.2d 54, 57 (Minn. 1985). The burden then shifts to the state to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime. Id. Predisposition exists when a defendant “readily respond[s] to the solicitation of a crime by the state.” Id. Predisposition may be proven by evidence of “(a) defendant’s active solicitation to commit the crime, (b) prior criminal convictions, or (c) prior criminal activity not resulting in conviction * * *, or (d) defendant’s criminal reputation, or by any other adequate means.” State v. Grilli, 304 Minn. 80, 89, 230 N.W.2d 445, 452 (1975).
Yanez first argues that the district court abused its discretion in discrediting the testimony of his character witnesses and in crediting Bobbie Yanez’s testimony despite her criminal history. (Appellant’s Br. at 14-15). But credibility determinations are the exclusive province of the fact-finder and will not be disturbed on review absent a clear abuse of discretion. See Sinsabaugh v. Heinerscheid, 428 N.W.2d 476, 480 (Minn. App. 1988) (recognizing trial court’s broad discretion in assessing witnesses’ credibility and weight to be assigned to their testimony); Park-Lake Car Wash, Inc. v. Springer, 394 N.W.2d 505, 514 (Minn. App. 1986) (rejecting claim that fact-finder was compelled to believe a witness simply because witness’s testimony was not impeached). The record in this case reflects no abuse of discretion. The court considered the testimony of Charles Yanez’s witnesses and chose to disregard it, as was its prerogative to do. Likewise, the court considered Bobbie Yanez’s testimony in light of “impeachment evidence and other factors bearing on her believability” and found it to be “reasonable and credible.” This court will not second-guess the district court’s evaluation of the evidence presented at trial or substitute its judgment for that of the district court.
Yanez also argues that the court’s finding that he insisted on being involved in the drug transactions his wife set up is inconsistent with the court’s previous finding that the state induced him to commit the crimes. But Yanez fails to mention that the court’s finding that the state induced him to commit the crimes charged was based solely on disclosures submitted by Charles Yanez, whereas its more recent finding of willingness to participate in the crimes charged was based also on the testimony of state witnesses, including his wife, whom the district court apparently believed.
Yanez last claims that the record does not support the district court’s determination that he was predisposed to commit the crimes charged. But Yanez admits he has a prior conviction for sale and delivery of a controlled substance, uses cocaine, and assisted his wife in setting up the drug transactions. These admissions are sufficient to support the court’s determination that Yanez was predisposed to commit the crimes. See Grilli, 304 Minn. at 89, 230 N.W.2d at 445. Contrary to Yanez’s argument, the court’s determination is not undermined by the fact that Yanez’s conviction was ten years old. Minnesota courts have not identified the recency of a conviction as relevant to a determination of predisposition. Cf. State v. Johnson, 511 N.W.2d 753, 755 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Apr. 19, 1994) (holding that finding of predisposition could not be based only on a 20-year-old conviction). Nor is the court’s determination undermined by testimony that Charles Yanez was not a drug dealer and participated in the drug deals solely to keep his wife out of prison. Just as the record contains testimony that Charles Yanez was not a drug dealer and participated in the deals his wife set up only to help her, the record contains evidence that he readily responded to the state’s solicitation by insisting on being involved in the drug buys, displayed knowledge of prices and amounts, used drugs, had a relationship with known drug dealers, including Mata and Jetty, and had a criminal reputation among drug users and dealers. That evidence, which the district court believed, supports the court’s determination that Charles Yanez was predisposed to commit the crimes charged.