This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Jenea Nichole Weinand,
Filed May 14, 2002
Mower County District Court
File No. K6001118
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Natalie E. Hudson, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Patrick A. Oman, Mower County Attorney, Courthouse, 201 1st Street N.E., Austin, MN 55912 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414; and
Michael C. Davis, Special Assistant State Public Defender, 46 East Fourth Street, Suite 1042 Minnesota Building, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
Appellant Jenea Nichole Weinand was charged by indictment with four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree murder, and one count of first-degree assault for her involvement in the murders of two men and the serious assault of a third man during a burglary at a motel in Austin, Minnesota. She agreed to plead guilty to two second-degree murder counts and the first-degree assault count, in exchange for dismissal of the remaining counts. She also agreed to imposition of three concurrent executed sentences of 339, 379, and 156 months, which represented the presumptive sentences for each offense.
On appeal, appellant requests that this court exercise its authority to reduce her 379-month sentence because it is unfair and unduly exaggerates her criminality. Because the sentences represent presumptive guidelines sentences, are fully consistent with the terms of appellant’s plea agreement, and do not unduly exaggerate her culpability, we affirm.
An appellate court may modify a sentence if modification appears to be in the interests of uniformity and fairness. State v. Vazquez, 330 N.W.2d 110, 111 (Minn. 1983). When reviewing a sentence for fairness, a court examines whether the sentence is commensurate with a defendant’s culpability and does not unduly exaggerate his or her criminality. State v. Warren, 592 N.W.2d 440, 451-52 (Minn. 1999).
Determining equity and fairness requires a comparison of the sentences of other offenders, as well as that of an accomplice or co-defendant. See Vazquez, 330 N.W.2d at 112; see also Minn. Sentencing Guidelines I (equity in sentencing requires that “convicted felons similar with respect to relevant sentencing criteria ought to receive similar sanctions”). A defendant is not entitled to a sentence reduction merely because a co-defendant received a lesser sentence. State v. Starnes, 396 N.W.2d 676, 681 (Minn. App. 1986).
Appellant argues that reduction is warranted because even the prosecutor acknowledged that she (1) admitted responsibility for the crimes and was the only defendant to do so; (2) was an “exemplary witness,” who testified against one of her three male codefendants; and (3) “behaved appropriately while in custody, and told the full truth.”
In her pro se supplemental brief, appellant attempts to minimize her involvement in the crimes, noting that she did not go into the motel room, did not take part in the shooting, and was unaware of the weapons until after the plan to rob the victims was established. She further claims that she was treated unequally, because the other young women in the group were not charged with anything. She insists that this court should consider her young age (19) at the time of the crimes and the fact that she was intimidated and afraid of her older male codefendants. She asserts that her 379-month sentence is “astounding,” considering her indirect involvement in the crimes. For several reasons, we decline to interfere with the district court’s discretion.
First, appellant does not challenge the validity of her negotiated plea agreement, which formed the basis for her sentencing. Even if she did, her plea appears to have been voluntarily and intelligently made. In exchange for her agreement to plead guilty, appellant received certain concessions from the state, including the dismissal of the five more serious charges and imposition of concurrent sentences that were on the low end of the presumptive guidelines grid for each offense. In addition, during her plea hearing, the terms of the plea agreement were thoroughly reviewed and a factual basis was established for the plea through appellant’s own testimony. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.01 (setting out procedure to follow and questioning of defendant before court may accept plea) and 15.05, subd. 1 (withdrawal of plea allowed after sentence only if “necessary to correct manifest injustice”).
Next, our review of the imposition of a presumptive sentence is extremely narrow, and we will interfere with a district court’s decision to impose a presumptive sentence only in a “rare” case. State v. Kindem, 313 N.W.2d 6, 7 (Minn. 1981). The district court
sits with a unique perspective on all stages of a case, including sentencing, and the trial judge is in the best position to evaluate the offender’s conduct and weigh sentencing options.
State v. Hough, 585 N.W.2d 393, 397 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted). The district court here did not abuse its discretion in imposing presumptive sentences.
Finally, we disagree with appellant’s characterization of her involvement as “minimal.” Unlike the other young women in the group, appellant actively assisted in the crime by prostituting herself with one of the victims, informing her male co-defendants that the victim had a lot of money, and gaining access to the motel room that he was sharing with two other men. Given these facts, appellant’s sentences appear to accurately reflect her culpability in the crimes. See State v. Scott, 375 N.W.2d 103, 105 (Minn. App. 1985) (rejecting defendant’s attempt to downplay her role in crime and her claim that her presumptive sentence was unjustifiably disparate and relatively harsh, where she was actually an active participant in crime), review denied (Minn. Dec. 19, 1985).
We therefore affirm appellant’s sentences.