This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






Fessehaye Asagedom Teklai, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed March 19, 2002


Harten, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 106935


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Susan K. Maki, Assistant State 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, Elizabeth V. Cutter, Assistant County Attorney, A-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




In postconviction proceedings, appellant challenges the postconviction court’s denial of his petition to withdraw his guilty plea for second-degree burglary.  Appellant argues that his plea was not intelligent because he believed, based on a prior relationship with the victim, that he had implied permission to enter her apartment, and therefore he did not consider his conduct a crime.  We affirm.


            Early one morning, appellant Fessehaye A. Teklai entered L.B.’s apartment.  L.B. awoke to find appellant standing in her living room and going through her purse.  She called 911.  The responding officer found appellant outside the apartment building.  L.B. identified appellant as the intruder and he was arrested.

            Appellant was charged with first- and second-degree burglary.  On 27 November 2001, he pled guilty to second-degree burglary.  At the plea hearing, the district court asked appellant if he had discussed with a lawyer all his possible defenses.  Appellant answered,


Yes.  I’m guilty of this.  I just want to tell him who I am, I make mistake.  I was not the person because I was under influence.  I believe I am guilty, that’s why.[1]


            Appellant’s counsel also asked appellant if he understood that he was giving up his right to a jury trial and that he could plead either not guilty or guilty.  Appellant stated,  “I know what was going on today.  * * *   I’m guilty.”  Appellant’s counsel further inquired whether appellant understood that he was giving up his right to use intoxication as a defense.  Appellant answered affirmatively.

            The prosecutor asked appellant about the facts leading to his arrest.  Appellant claimed that he knew L.B. and was in her apartment “every day.”  He did not remember going to L.B.’s that night or being arrested.  But, appellant said that he believed the police report about the incident, “[B]ecause I know I was drinking every day, probably did.  I believe I did.”   The court asked appellant if he understood he was giving up his right to argue to a jury that he had permission to enter appellant’s home.  Appellant again responded, “I’m guilty.”  The district court accepted appellant’s plea.

            On 13 August 2001, appellant unsuccessfully petitioned the postconviction court to withdraw his guilty plea.  This appeal followed.


            Appellate courts “review a postconviction court’s findings to determine whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record.”  Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001) (citation omitted).  Appellate courts

afford great deference to a district court’s findings of fact and will not reverse the findings unless they are clearly erroneous.


Id.  (citation omitted).  Its decision “will not be disturbed unless the court has abused its discretion.”  Id. (citation omitted).

Appellant does not have an absolute right to withdraw his guilty plea; he must prove to the court that withdrawal of the plea is necessary to correct a manifest injustice. See Alanis v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 577 (Minn. 1998).  A manifest injustice occurs if a plea is not accurate, intelligent, and voluntary.  Id.

            Appellant claims that his plea was not intelligent because he believed he had permission to enter the apartment and “did not understand that what he did was a crime.”    Appellant said at the plea hearing that he went to L.B.’s apartment “every day.”  According to police reports, the victim stated that appellant did not have permission to enter her apartment without her consent.  Appellant’s argument that what he did was not a crime fails in part because of the well-established legal principal that ignorance of the law is no defense.  See Sanford v. State, 499 N.W.2d 496, 498 (Minn.  App. 1993), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1993).  Moreover, when the district court asked appellant whether he understood he was waiving his right to present this defense at trial, he answered, “I’m guilty.”

A plea is intelligent if a defendant understands the direct consequences of a plea.  Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 689-90 (Minn. 1997).  See Sykes v. State, 578 N.W.2d 807, 814 (Minn. App. 1998) (by pleading guilty defendant waived right to claim lack of intent), review denied (July 16, 1998).  We agree with the postconviction court that appellant made an intelligent plea. 

            The district court asked appellant if he had discussed with his attorney all the possible defenses to the charge.  Appellant answered, “Yes.  I’m guilty.”  Appellant told the court that (1) he understood he was giving up his right to present intoxication as a defense to the charge; (2) he had consulted with his attorney and understood that he was giving up his right to a jury trial; (3) the plea agreement did not bind the district court as to his sentence, and (4) he had discussed with his attorney the fact that a jury would likely find him guilty.  Even though appellant claims not to remember the events leading to his arrest, he acknowledged that the police report was “true.”  The district court judge asked appellant if he understood what was happening when he made his plea and appellant responded affirmatively.  In short, the record supports the postconviction court’s conclusion that appellant failed to show that withdrawal of his guilty plea was necessary to correct a manifest injustice. 

            The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.


[1] English is not appellant’s native language.  The district court asked appellant if he needed an interpreter.  He responded that he was able to understand what was being said at the hearing.