This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 96042590
Rachel B. Rosen, Rosen Law Office, 4029 Dublin Drive, Minnetonka, MN 55345 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
Appellant Larry Laye Stanley challenges the district court’s denial of his postconviction petition to withdraw his plea of guilty to a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct offense. Appellant contends that his guilty plea was not voluntary, knowing, and intelligent and that the district court impermissibly interjected itself into plea negotiations. He also argues that the court should have sentenced him to five, instead of ten, years of conditional release, and asserts that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his postconviction petition. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s petition without a hearing, we affirm.
The state charged Stanley with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subds. 1(b), 2 (1996), based on an incident involving a juvenile female between the ages of 13 and 16. Stanley was on probation for a second-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction at the time he committed this offense. Because of the new charge, the district court revoked Stanley’s probation and executed a 21-month prison sentence for the first offense.
Prior to Stanley’s entering into a plea agreement for the new charge, there was discussion among the district court and counsel about whether Stanley could be sentenced as a first-time offender based on the fact that he had received a stay of imposition for the first conviction. The presumptive sentence for a first-time offender is 18 months and, if he could be sentenced as a first-time offender, Stanley would be facing only the mandatory five-year conditional release for the new offense after he completed his 21-month sentence for the first offense.
Based on the district court’s agreement to let him withdraw the guilty plea if he could not be sentenced as a first-time offender, Stanley pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. Stanley indicated that he did not have much recollection of the event, but admitted that he placed his hand on the girl’s leg and touched her vagina over her clothing. He admitted that the touching was done intentionally and for sexual purposes, that he had no reason to believe the girl was over the age of 16, and that he was more than 20 years old at the time of the event.
At the sentencing hearing, counsel presented argument on the issue of whether Stanley could be sentenced as a first-time offender. The district court concluded that Stanley could not be sentenced as a first-time sex offender and that the sentence would have to include a ten-year conditional-release period. See Minn. Stat. § 609.346, subd. 5(a) (1996) (stating that if a person was convicted of a criminal sexual conduct offense for the second or subsequent time, the person “shall be placed on conditional release for ten years”). Also, the presumptive sentence would be three years rather than 18 months. Stanley’s counsel then stated that, based on prior discussions, it was her understanding that if the district court could not treat Stanley as a first-time sex offender, the court would offer Stanley the option of a downward durational departure on the sentence so that he would not have to be incarcerated for any additional time for this case, but would be on conditional release for ten years. The court agreed that it would be willing to grant such a downward durational departure if the state had no objection or remained silent on that issue. The prosecutor elected to remain silent on the durational-departure issue as long as Stanley received the required ten years of conditional release.
Stanley indicated his understanding of the new proposal, asked some questions about the requirements of conditional release, and expressed his understanding that the conditional-release period was not mandatory. The district court stated:
Well, I believe that I would have to order you to be on 10-year supervised release if I did it that way. So that would be my sentence. The other alternative is I’ll allow you to withdraw your plea and go to trial.
Stanley stated that he would take the plea. After a discussion with Stanley and his attorney about the length of sentence, the district court sentenced Stanley to 21 months incarceration and ten years of conditional release.
In June 2001, Stanley filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief, arguing that (1) his plea was not voluntary because he was depressed and on medication when he entered his plea; (2) the judge impermissibly participated in plea negotiations; and (3) the district court should have sentenced him to five, instead of ten, years of conditional release. The postconviction court denied his petition. This appeal followed.
When seeking postconviction relief, the appellant has the burden of establishing, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, facts that will warrant a reopening of the case. State v. Rainer, 502 N.W.2d 784, 787 (Minn. 1993). On review, this court will examine the postconviction court’s decision to determine “whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record” to sustain the findings of the postconviction court. Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001); see alsoSeverson v. State, 636 N.W.2d 808, 809 (Minn. 2001). A postconviction court’s decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. Dukes, 621 N.W.2d at 251.
A. Voluntary, knowing, and intelligent plea
Stanley argues that the district court should have permitted him to withdraw his plea because his plea was not voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. See State v. Trott, 338 N.W.2d 248, 251 (Minn. 1983) (holding that, in order to be valid, a guilty plea must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent).
The decision regarding whether to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea is within the sound discretion of the district court. Doughman v. State, 351 N.W.2d 671, 674 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Oct. 16, 1984). The court’s decision will not be disturbed on appeal absent a clear abuse of discretion. Id.
Stanley claims that his plea was not intelligent. The purpose of the intelligence requirement is “to ensure that the defendant understands the charges, understands the rights he is waiving by pleading guilty, and understands the consequences of his plea.” Trott, 338 N.W.2d at 251. At the time he entered his plea, Stanley claims that he was suffering from depression and was taking Prozac. As a result, he argues that the medication and his depression “altered his ability to clearly understand the terms and consequences of the agreement.”
The record, however, does not support Stanley’s contention that he was incapable of comprehending the consequences of his plea. The transcript contains no reference to Stanley’s impaired mental state or the fact that he was on medication at the time he entered his plea. And Stanley did not make any comments to suggest that he did not understand the plea. In fact, Stanley appeared very coherent at the hearing and even volunteered statements related to his knowledge of Minnesota law.
Furthermore, Stanley has not articulated how his medication or his medical condition affected or negated the voluntariness or intelligence of his plea. See Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 691 (Minn. 1997) (holding, in part, that defendant’s medical condition did not prevent him from entering an accurate, voluntary, and intelligent plea because he “failed to indicate how his medical complaints negate the accuracy, voluntariness, or intelligence of his guilty plea”).
Stanley also claims that his plea was not voluntary because “he felt that he had no choice” but to accept the plea. “The purpose of the voluntariness requirement is to insure that the defendant is not pleading guilty because of improper pressures.” Trott, 338 N.W.2d at 251.
There is no evidence in the record of improper coercion or threats or that Stanley was pressured into accepting a plea. See Sykes v. State, 578 N.W.2d 807, 813 (Minn. App. 1998) (rejecting defendant’s claim that he was forced to plead guilty, in part, because the record did not contain any evidence to suggest that the state subjected defendant to mental coercion or that the state threatened defendant with physical harm), review denied (Minn. Jul. 16, 1998).
The record also demonstrates that Stanley’s plea was accurate. The purpose of the accuracy requirement is “to protect a defendant from pleading guilty to a more serious offense than he could be convicted of were he to insist on his right to trial.” Trott, 338 N.W.2d at 251. The state charged Stanley with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1 (1996). A person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree if the victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the perpetrator is more than 48 months older than the victim. Minn. Stat.
§ 609.345, subd. 1(b). Stanley admitted at the plea hearing that he intentionally touched a young girl’s vagina over her clothing for sexual purposes. He admitted that at the time of the incident he was more than 20 years of age and that he had no reason to believe that the girl was over the age of 16. Stanley’s admission is consistent with the victim’s statement. Therefore, the record contains a factual basis to support Stanley’s plea. See Beaman v. State, 301 Minn. 180, 183, 221 N.W.2d 698, 700 (1974) (noting that the purpose of the factual-basis requirement is to ensure that a plea is accurate).
B. Untimely Plea
We also agree with the state that the district court could have appropriately denied Stanley’s request to withdraw his plea as untimely. “Once a guilty plea has been entered, there is no absolute right to withdraw it.” Shorter v. State, 511 N.W.2d 743, 746 (Minn. 1994) (citation omitted); see also Chapman v. State, 282 Minn. 13, 16, 162 N.W.2d 698, 700 (1968) (stating that once a plea is accepted the general policy favoring the finality of judgments applies to criminal as well as civil cases). After sentencing, a criminal defendant may withdraw a guilty plea “upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1.
Although the courts have not articulated what period of time constitutes a timely motion, this court has upheld the denial of a defendant’s postconviction petition in several cases as untimely. See State v. Searles, 274 Minn. 199, 200, 142 N.W.2d 748, 749 (1966) (stating that district court was justified in denying defendant leave to withdraw his plea after three years had elapsed); State v. Weisberg, 473 N.W.2d 381, 383 (Minn. App. 1991) (finding delay of 17 months to be untimely), review denied (Minn. Oct. 11, 1991); Doughman, 351 N.W.2d at 675 (noting that 22-month delay after entering the initial plea of guilty “while not determinative, does raise a question” as to the legitimacy of the postconviction claim); State v. Lopez, 379 N.W.2d 633, 636 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that motion to withdraw plea approximately 11 months after sentencing was untimely), review denied (Minn. Feb. 14, 1986); State v. Andren, 358 N.W.2d 428, 431 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that motion to withdraw plea approximately eight months after sentencing was untimely).
Stanley entered a plea of guilty on May 22, 1997 and was sentenced on July 17, 1997. But he did not seek to withdraw his plea until June 14, 2001. Stanley’s petition to withdraw his plea is untimely as well as without merit.
Stanley also argues that the district court impermissibly interjected itself into the plea negotiations because “the court, not the prosecutor, lowered his sentence from 24 months to 21 months.” But it was Stanley who, after agreeing to proceed with the plea, questioned the district court’s original statement that Stanley was sentenced to the Department of Corrections for 24 months. Stanley replied that a sentence of 24 months would require him to be placed in a halfway house, and he did not want to be placed in a halfway house. Stanley’s attorney then asked the court to consider a 21-month sentence. The judge immediately asked the prosecutor if the state had any problem with that modification. Although Stanley’s attorney responded, the prosecutor remained silent, neither objecting to nor approving of the modification. The court then modified the prison term to 21 months.
A district court judge may not participate directly in plea agreement negotiations. State v. Moe, 479 N.W.2d 427, 430 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 10, 1992). A judge should not become “excessively involved in the negotiations themselves.” Id. at 429 (quotation omitted).
Stanley has not cited any support for his contention that the limited involvement by the judge in this case constitutes inappropriate participation in plea negotiations. The evidence in this case does not demonstrate that the district court became excessively involved with the plea negotiations.
Stanley contends that he should have been sentenced to a five-year conditional-release term instead of a ten-year term. He argues that he should have been subject to the five-year conditional-release term because the court should have treated him as a first-time offender. After the pre-sentence investigation and argument on the issue, the district court concluded that it could not sentence Stanley as a first-time offender because Stanley had been convicted of criminal sexual conduct in Anoka County. Stanley argues that he could have been treated as a first-time offender because he originally received a stay of imposition of sentence in Anoka County. But Stanley fails to cite any support for this argument.
In addition, Stanley argues that he should have been sentenced to five years of conditional release because he was “unduly pressured into accepting the change in the plea agreement.” In support of this argument, he cites only one case: State v. Henthorne, 637 N.W.2d 852 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. Mar. 27, 2002). Henthorne, however, does not support Stanley’s argument because the facts are not analogous. In Henthorne, the defendant sought to withdraw his guilty plea after a mandatory conditional-release term was added to his sentence several years after he entered his guilty plea. 637 N.W.2d at 853. This court held that the district court abused its discretion by not permitting Henthorne to withdraw his plea. Id. at 857.
If a defendant is given an unqualified promise regarding a sentence that does not include a conditional-release term, and the court later adds the conditional-release term, the defendant “must be allowed to withdraw from the plea agreement if he so chooses.”
Id. at 855 (quoting State v. Garcia, 582 N.W.2d 879, 882 (Minn. 1998)). In Henthorne, the court noted that “[t]he mandatory ten-year conditional-release term was never mentioned to appellant as a condition of his guilty plea.” Id. at 853.
In contrast, Stanley was informed about the mandatory ten-year conditional-release term on at least two separate occasions. At the plea hearing, the prosecutor and Stanley’s public defender discussed five- and ten-year conditional-release requirements. Stanley also stated at the hearing, without any prompting by the prosecutor, his attorney or the court, that under the new law “you’re on conditional [release] * * * for 10 years.” The conditional-release requirements for first- and second-time sex offenders were again discussed by all parties at the sentencing hearing, at which time the district court told Stanley that the ten-year conditional-release term was required for second-time offenders and would be his sentence. And, pursuant to the original plea agreement, the district court judge gave Stanley the option of withdrawing his plea because he could not be sentenced as a first-time offender. Stanley, however, chose not to withdraw his plea and opted to accept the new plea agreement of a downward durational departure with a ten-year conditional-release period. The district court did not err by imposing a ten-year conditional-release period.
Stanley asserts that the postconviction court erred by denying his request for a hearing. A postconviction court may dismiss a petition for relief without an evidentiary hearing if the petition, files, and records “conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief.” Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (1996). An evidentiary hearing is not required unless “facts are alleged which, if proved, would entitle a petitioner to the requested relief.” Fratzke v. State, 450 N.W.2d 101, 102 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted).
Stanley has failed to allege any facts that would entitle him to relief. The district court did not err by denying Stanley’s request for a hearing.