This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Filed September 14, 2004
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K0-02-4523
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Jeanne L. Schleh, Assistant County Attorney, 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Michael C. Davis, Special Assistant State Public Defender, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite 1610 West, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his pleas of guilty to charges of false imprisonment and aiding and abetting first-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that because his pleas were not accurately made, it would be fair and just to allow him to withdraw them. Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion, we affirm.
On October 29, 2002, 13-year-old P.H. gave a statement to Detective Kevin Navara of the Minnesota Gang Strike Force regarding sex crimes committed against her and some of her friends by members of certain street gangs in the Twin Cities area. She reported that she and her friends had been forced to prostitute themselves as “payment” for methamphetamine provided to them by Toua Chang, a member of the “116” gang. P.H. also reported that Chang raped her sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 2002.
According to P.H., the rape occurred after Chang picked up P.H. and one of her friends, X.A.L., and drove them to the house that Chang and appellant Jones Yang shared in St. Paul. Chang took P.H. into the garage, and Yang locked the garage door from the outside with a padlock. Chang then tied P.H.’s hands behind her back and raped her.
On November 13, officers executed a search warrant at the house where the alleged rape occurred. Yang was present at the house and was taken into custody and interviewed by Detective Navara. Navara asked Yang if he recalled the incident in the garage, and Yang said that he did. Yang told Navara that on the day in question he, Chang, P.H., and X.A.L. were smoking crystal methamphetamine in the garage when Chang told him to take X.A.L. outside and wait. Navara asked Yang if he knew what Chang was going to do with P.H., and Yang said that he did. Yang said that he “hook[ed] the padlock back onto the frame of the door” but did not lock it.
Yang, Chang, and two other men were arrested and charged in connection with the prostitution and rape allegations. Yang was not charged in connection with the prostitution allegations, but for his role in Chang’s rape of P.H., Yang was charged with false imprisonment, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.255, subd. 2 (2002), and with aiding and abetting first-degree criminal sexual conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.342, subds. 1(e)(i), 2(a), 2(b), 609.05 (2002). Yang reached a plea agreement with the state whereby (1) he would plead guilty to both counts; (2) he would cooperate with the state, including testifying, in the prosecution of the other three men; and (3) his sentencing would be continued until after the conclusion of the cases of the other three men. In return, he would be released on his own recognizance, and at his sentencing hearing, the state would dismiss the first-degree criminal-sexual-conduct charge and request no jail time on the false-imprisonment charge other than the time that Yang had served up to the date that his plea was entered.
At the plea hearing, while the state was attempting to establish the factual basis for the pleas, Yang at first claimed not to recall putting the padlock on the garage door. He then claimed that he put the padlock on the hasp but that Chang and P.H. would still have been able to get out of the garage. Following a brief recess, the state again attempted to establish a factual basis for the pleas, and this time Yang’s testimony conformed with the information that he had given Detective Navara. Yang also testified that what he had told Navara was true and that Navara’s report of the interview accurately described what Yang had told Navara. The district court accepted the pleas and the plea agreement.
At the sentencing hearing, Yang informed the court that he wished to withdraw his guilty pleas and stand trial on the charges against him. The hearing was continued for two weeks at the requests of both the state and Yang, and, at the continued hearing, Yang moved to withdraw his guilty pleas and told the court that he had lied to Detective Navara when he told Navara that he had a role in the rape of P.H. The court said that it needed time to consider Yang’s motion and continued the hearing until the following day.
The next day, Yang iterated that he had lied to Detective Navara and had lied at the plea hearing about his role in the rape and that he wished to withdraw his guilty pleas and stand trial. The state opposed Yang’s motion and requested that Yang be sentenced to the presumptive 144-month sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct because Yang no longer intended to cooperate in the other cases, and, thus, Yang had failed to comply with the terms of the plea agreement. The court denied Yang’s motion, and at a sentencing hearing two weeks later, sentenced him to 86 months in prison, which represents a 58-month downward durational departure from the presumptive executed sentence of 144 months. Yang appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Yang contends that his pleas were not accurate because the factual basis for the pleas included lies that he had told to the police and to the court. Therefore, he argues, the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas because it would have been fair and just to grant the motion in light of Yang’s claim of innocence and the fact that his original pleas were not accurate.
There is no absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea once it has been entered. Shorter v. State, 511 N.W.2d 743, 746 (Minn. 1994). A court may permit a defendant to withdraw a plea before sentencing “if it is fair and just to do so, giving due consideration to the reasons advanced by the defendant in support of the motion and 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 (2004). But a defendant should not be freely allowed to withdraw his guilty plea without good reason because doing so “would undermine the integrity of the plea-taking process” and “the process of accepting guilty pleas would simply be a means of continuing the trial to some indefinite date in the future when the defendant might see fit to come in and make a motion to withdraw his plea.” Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. 1989) (quotations omitted).
The decision of whether to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea under Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2, is left to the discretion of the district court, and the decision “will be reversed only in the rare case in which the appellate court can fairly conclude that the [district] court abused its discretion.” Kim, 434 N.W.2d at 266. The defendant bears the burden of showing that allowing withdrawal of the plea is fair and just. Id.
A valid guilty plea must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent. State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1994). Yang does not contend that his guilty pleas were not voluntary and intelligent; he argues only that they were not accurate. An accurate plea protects the defendant from pleading guilty to an offense more serious than that of which he could be convicted if he were to go to trial. Id. The district court must establish a proper factual basis on the record for an accurate guilty plea. Id.
Yang told the district court that he wanted to withdraw his pleas because he did not want to “continue with a lie that he originally gave to the police” or to continue to “perpetrate a lie under oath.” The court was hesitant to believe that Yang had lied at the plea hearing, saying to Yang’s counsel, “You’re telling me he lied under oath during his plea. And I’m reading the whole plea, and it just doesn’t look that way.” The court finally concluded that it had to base its decision on the record, and “what’s on the record is a rather extensive discussion of what was going on, and I believe there is a sufficient ground for accepting that plea.”
The district court was required to determine whether Yang had lied to Detective Navara and had lied at the plea hearing or if he was lying at the hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. The court determined that Yang was lying at the hearing on his motion. When credibility determinations are crucial in establishing whether a guilty plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, we “give deference to the primary observations and trustworthiness assessments made by the district court.” State v. Aviles-Alvarez, 561 N.W.2d 523, 527 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. June 11, 1997).
Additionally, a defendant’s testimony is not the only evidence that can establish an adequate factual basis for a plea. Kochevar v. State, 281 N.W.2d 680, 686 (Minn. 1979). A factual basis can also be established by evidence in the record. See, e.g.,State v. Stewart, 360 N.W.2d 463, 465 (Minn. App. 1985) (recognizing that law-enforcement investigation reports may be used in establishing factual basis). A sworn complaint can also be considered part of the factual basis. State v. Warren, 419 N.W.2d 795, 799 (Minn. 1988). Here, the police reports, which the district court reviewed in connection with Yang’s motion to withdraw his pleas, and the sworn criminal complaint corroborate the version of the events that Yang described at the plea hearing. We conclude that, viewing the record as a whole, there was a sufficient factual basis for the pleas.
Finally, the fact that Yang now claims to be innocent of the crimes that he pleaded guilty to does not require that he be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas. A defendant’s assertion of innocence after his plea is not a significant reason compelling a finding that the district court abused its discretion under the fair-and-just standard. State v. Williams, 373 N.W.2d 851, 853 (Minn. App. 1985).
The record supports the district court’s conclusion that Yang did not lie to Detective Navara in the interview or to the court at the plea hearing. Yang failed to show that the pleas were not accurate and that, therefore, withdrawal would be fair and just. The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Yang’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.