This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Valentine Durray Riley,
Carver County District Court
File No. K900366
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Michael A. Fahey, Carver County Attorney, 600 East Fourth Street, Chaska, MN 55318 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota Public Defender, Theodora Gaitas, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge.
Appellant pled guilty to attempted first-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree burglary, and felon in possession of a firearm. Prior to sentencing, he filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, arguing that during plea negotiations he believed the minimum sentence would be governed by the version of the statute in effect on the date he committed the underlying felony rather than the statute that was in effect on the date he possessed the firearms. The district court denied the motion. We affirm.
On July 17, 2000, a jury found appellant guilty of 16 felonies in connection with two burglaries and one attempted burglary. On appeal from that conviction, this court concluded that appellant had ineffective assistance of counsel and that there had been prosecutorial misconduct. By order opinion, this court reversed and remanded for a new trial. State v. Riley, No. C6-00-2145 (Minn. App. Aug. 20, 2001). Appellant was then re-charged with all 16 felonies. Appellant pled guilty to four of the 16 felonies, including felon in possession of a firearm.
Before sentencing, appellant moved to withdraw his guilty pleas. When he pled guilty, appellant knew the state would argue for a 60-month minimum sentence. But he asserted that his initial acceptance of the plea agreement was based on what he believed was a valid legal argument that he could only be sentenced under the shorter, 36-month statutory minimum for the firearm possession charge. Appellant relied on the law prior to the 1999 statutory amendments. The 1999 amendments increased the mandatory minimum sentence for felon in possession of a firearm from 36 months to 60 months for firearm possession on or after January 1, 1999. See 1998 Minn. Laws ch. 367, art. 2, §§ 4-5. Appellant reasoned that because the felony that made it illegal for him to possess a firearm occurred prior to the effective date of the statutory revision, the prior law applied. When the pleas were entered, appellant’s attorney had not researched the issue. Appellant was aware of the need for research and stated on the record that he was knowingly and voluntarily pleading guilty and taking the risk of a 60-month sentence.
Before the sentencing, appellant’s attorney researched the issue, and he informed appellant that Minnesota appellate courts had determined that the 60-month sentence would apply. Appellant then sought to withdraw his guilty pleas. At the sentencing hearing, the district court refused to allow withdrawal of the guilty pleas and sentenced appellant to 60 months in prison for the possession charge. The court concluded that appellant failed to prove that withdrawal of his guilty pleas was necessary to correct a manifest injustice and that it was not “fair and just” to permit withdrawal of his guilty pleas.
“District courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to permit withdrawal of a guilty plea.” Barragan v. State, 583 N.W.2d 571, 572 (Minn. 1998). This court will reverse a district court’s decision only if it concludes that the district court abused its discretion. Barragan, 583 N.W.2d at 572.
A defendant does not have an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea. Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. 1989). A defendant may withdraw a guilty plea if he or she demonstrates that “withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1. Manifest injustice occurs when the “three basic prerequisites” of a valid guilty plea are not met. Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 688 (Minn. 1997) (quotation omitted). The three prerequisites are that the guilty plea “must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent (i.e., knowingly and understandingly made).” Id. These requirements ensure that the defendant “understands the charges, understands the rights he is waiving by pleading guilty, and understands the consequences of his plea.” Kaiser v. State, 641 N.W.2d 900, 903 (Minn. 2002) (quotation omitted).
Here, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. Appellant’s attorney provided him with the petition to enter a plea of guilty at the plea hearing, and appellant acknowledged his signature on that document. Appellant also acknowledged that he conferred with his attorney several times and that his attorney read the petition to appellant “line by line.” Appellant replied, “Yes” when his attorney questioned whether he fully understood his rights. Appellant also replied, “Yes” when his attorney asked if appellant had “agreed to disagree with the government on the interpretation of several statutes pertaining to the mandatory minimum” for felon in possession of a firearm.
One of the statutes appellant’s attorney referred to is Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a) (2000):
Any person who has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined in section 624.712, subdivision 5, and who ships, transports, possesses, or receives a firearm before ten years have elapsed since the person was restored to civil rights, commits a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine or not more than $30,000, or both.
Id. Another statute appellant’s attorney referred to states,
Any defendant convicted of violating section 609.165 * * * shall be committed to the commissioner of corrections for not less than five years, nor more than the maximum sentence provided by law.
Minn. Stat. § 609.11, subd. 5 (b) (2000). Appellant stated that he understood he was a convicted felon as a result of his 1998 conviction of fourth-degree assault and that he understood that his civil rights had not been restored. Appellant, nonetheless, argued that because the felony underlying his possession charge occurred prior to a 1999 statutory amendment, the minimum sentence should be 36 months rather than 60 months.
Appellant understood the nature and consequences of his guilty plea. He was active in the negotiation of the plea and received considerable guidance from his attorney and the court. Most notably, his attorney explained his rights and provided him copies of the statutes on which the plea was based. Appellant was neither misled nor confused as to the consequences of his pleas. And, as the sentencing judge noted, appellant had “every possible bit of information.” Appellant’s guilty plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, and he has not provided any meaningful evidence to demonstrate that a manifest injustice occurred.
Even if allowing withdrawal of a plea is not necessary to correct a manifest injustice, the district court may allow a plea withdrawal before sentencing if doing so is fair and just. Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2. In deciding whether withdrawal is fair and just, the court must give due consideration both to the defendant’s arguments and to “any prejudice the granting of the motion would cause the prosecution by reason of actions taken in reliance upon the defendant’s plea.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2.
Appellant attempted to withdraw his guilty pleas because he believed the minimum sentence for felon possession of firearms would be determined according to the date of the underlying felony rather than the date of possession. The sentencing court found the state would be prejudiced if appellant were permitted to withdraw his pleas because the state would have to call witnesses to testify for a third time. There were 45 witnesses in the original trial. The witnesses included victims of the burglaries and their families, various police officers, and investigators from seven police departments. These witnesses had already been called back for a second trial and released when the second trial did not occur because of appellant’s guilty pleas. The district court concluded that the resulting expense for the state and the individual witnesses outweighed appellant’s reasons for withdrawing his pleas. Accordingly, the court found that it was fair and just to deny the plea withdrawal.
Because appellant clearly knew that his guilty pleas could result in a 60-month sentence, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw those pleas.