This opinion will
be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Victor Fidel Hawkins,
State of Minnesota,
Filed April 4, 2006
Anoka County District Court
File No. K8-99-7187
Michael C. Davis, Special Assistant
State Public Defender, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite 1610
West, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
1800 Bremer Tower,
445 Minnesota Street,
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-2134; and
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County
Attorney, Robert D. Goodell, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government
Center, 2100 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, Anoka, Minnesota 55303 (for respondent)
and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S
H E D O P I N I O N
This is an appeal from an
order denying appellant’s postconviction petition challenging a 1999 Washington County conviction for false imprisonment. Appellant argues that he was denied his right
to counsel in the Washington County case where he pleaded guilty without a knowing
and intelligent waiver of his right to counsel as part of a resolution of an Anoka County
prosecution on more serious offenses.
Because the record demonstrates that appellant was represented by
counsel when he entered his plea on the Washington County
case, we affirm the district court’s order denying appellant’s postconviction petition.
In May 1996, appellant Victor
Hawkins was sentenced in Hennepin County to 98 months following convictions of
first-degree assault, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.221 (1994); and
harassment/stalking, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.749,
subd. 2(4) (1994). Execution was
stayed, and Hawkins was ordered to serve one year in the Hennepin County
workhouse. In February 1999, Hawkins was
charged in Washington County with false imprisonment, in violation of Minn.
Stat. § 609.255, subd. 2 (1998).
In August 1999, while released from Washington County on bail, Hawkins
was involved in a separate incident in Anoka County resulting in charges of first-degree
attempted murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185, subd. 1
(1998); first-degree assault, in violation of § 609.221, subd. 1
(1998); and kidnapping, in violation of § 609.25, subd. 1(2)
(1998). Hawkins was held in custody for a
probation violation during the pendency of the Anoka County
On August 11, 1999, Hawkins requested
that the Washington
County district court
appoint a public defender to represent him on the false-imprisonment
charge. The district court denied this
request. On August 23, at Hawkins’s
first appearance in Anoka County, the Anoka County
district court appointed the Anoka Public Defender to represent Hawkins on the
three felony counts in that county.
Stephen R. Nicol was assigned as Hawkins’s counsel. Attorney Nicol met with Hawkins at the Anoka County
jail during his representation of Hawkins.
Attorney Nicol was aware from their discussions that Hawkins had a
pending charge in Washington
court. Attorney Nicol spoke at least
once with an assistant Washington
County attorney about
that pending charge and received some discovery documents as well. Attorney Nicol did not, however, appear
before the Washington County district court on that charge, and the Washington County district court never formally
appointed counsel to represent Hawkins on that charge. Attorney Nicol informed appellant that the
Anoka County Attorney and the Washington County Attorney were contemplating
some form of a “joint plea.”
On December 6, 1999, Hawkins entered
two petitions to plead guilty; one in the Washington
County charge and one in the Anoka County
Attorney Norman represented the State of Minnesota with respect
to negotiations on both files. Attorney
Nicol drafted both petitions and reviewed each one with Hawkins, who indicated
that he understood the rights he was giving up by entering his guilty
pleas. Although it appears Hawkins may
have had some reservations about the strength of the charges in Washington County,
Hawkins negotiated a plea for concurrent sentencing in exchange for not exercising
his right to a trial in Washington
Petition to Enter Plea of Guilty for the Washington County
file indicates: “I am represented by an
attorney whose name is Stephen R. Nicol,” and:
a. I feel that I
have had sufficient time to discuss my case with my attorney.
b. I am satisfied
that my attorney is fully informed as
to the facts of this case.
c. My attorney has discussed possible
defenses to the crime that I might have.
d. I am satisfied
that my attorney has represented my
interests and has fully advised me.
December 13, 1999, the matter came before the Anoka County district court for a
plea and sentencing hearing. Hawkins
appeared with counsel, Stephen R. Nicol.
Attorney Nicol laid foundation for the plea petitions and inquired as to
the facts on both files. During the plea
hearing, neither Hawkins nor his counsel inquired about appointment of counsel
on the Washington
County charge. Hawkins indicated that he was entering his
guilty plea voluntarily. Hawkins pleaded
guilty first to the Washington County false-imprisonment charge and then to the Anoka County
attempted-murder charge. Hawkins was
sentenced contemporaneously with the pleas.
The first sentence was an executed sentence of 17 months for the Washington County conviction for false imprisonment. The first plea resulted in an additional
criminal history point for Hawkins for sentencing on the second plea. The second sentence was an executed sentence
of 230 months for the Anoka
County conviction for
attempted murder in the first degree.
The district court also executed the balance of the previously stayed
sentence of 98 months from the Hennepin
County case. All sentences were concurrent.
filed no immediate appeals. Later, Hawkins
came to believe that his convictions violated his constitutional right to
counsel. In February 2004, Hawkins filed
a pro se petition for postconviction relief.
Following an evidentiary hearing, the Anoka County
district court denied the petition. This
D E C
I S I O N
argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying his
postconviction petition, asserting that when he pleaded guilty to the Washington County charge he was unconstitutionally
denied his right to counsel.
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). We will “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). The decisions of a postconviction court will
not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees as a
fundamental right that counsel be appointed to a criminal defendant who cannot
otherwise afford it. See U.S. Const. amends. VI, XIV; see also Minn. Const. art. I, §§ 6, 7; Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 343–45, 83 S. Ct.
792, 795–97 (1963). The Minnesota Constitution
has been interpreted to establish a broad-based right to counsel that exceeds that
guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
State v. Nordstrom, 331 N.W.2d
901, 904–05 (Minn.
1983). Pursuant to Minnesota Rules of
Criminal Procedure, “if a defendant . . . appears without counsel” the district court must “advise the defendant of
the right to counsel and the appointment of the district public defender if the
defendant has been determined to be financially unable to afford counsel.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 5.02, subd. 1(1) (emphasis added). The denial of either the right to counsel or
the right to self-representation does not require a showing of prejudice to
obtain reversal. State v. Camacho, 561 N.W.2d 160, 171 (Minn. 1997).
Hawkins argues that because the Washington County
district court denied him the appointment of counsel on the Washington County
charge, he was unconstitutionally required to represent himself in the plea
hearing in Anoka County concerning that charge. Hawkins relies on the postconviction hearing testimony
and affidavits of Attorney Nicol, who stated that he understood Hawkins to be
representing himself on the Washington
The postconviction court found that
“[a]lthough Attorney Nicol was not specifically appointed to represent [Hawkins]
on the Washington County case, Attorney Nicol’s actions and [Hawkins’s]
response during the [December 13, 1999] proceeding establish that Attorney
Nicol did represent [Hawkins] for the limited purpose of entering a guilty plea
on the Washington County case.”
The record reflects that Hawkins
appeared at the December 13, 1999 plea hearing with his counsel, Mr.
Nicol. Attorney Nicol had been involved
in the plea negotiations regarding the Anoka
County and the Washington County
charges. Both Hawkins and Nicol understood
that the plea agreement encompassed the Anoka
County and the Washington County
files. Attorney Nicol understood the Washington County file sufficiently to advise Hawkins
concerning the plea. Attorney Nicol
drafted the two separate plea agreements—one for each county—in accordance with
rule 15 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure. Both petitions list Attorney Nicol as
representing Hawkins. Attorney Nicol
reviewed each petition with Hawkins, who signed both petitions. Attorney Nicol separately presented the facts
to the district court, first on the Washington County charge, and then on the
Anoka County charges. Hawkins pleaded
guilty to each charge separately, stating to the district court that he understood
the terms of the pleas and the rights that he was giving up in pleading guilty,
and that he was voluntarily entering the pleas.
Attorney Nicol separately presented each petition to be entered.
Although Attorney Nicol was not
specifically appointed to the Washington County file, several factors demonstrate
this to have been a mere insignificant oversight: (1) Washington and Anoka
counties are adjacent and are part of the Tenth Judicial District, thus
Attorney Nicol was assigned to represent Hawkins by a district court of the Tenth
Judicial District; (2) at the plea hearing, Attorney Nicol presented himself to
the Anoka County district court as Hawkins’s attorney on both matters, without
objection by Hawkins, and giving no indication that his representation was
limited in any way; and (3) Hawkins likewise represented to the district court
that Nicol was his attorney and never told the district court that he felt he
was representing himself in regard to the Washington County file.
upon the transcripts of the December 13, 1999 plea hearing and the petition to
enter a plea of guilty on the Washington County file, the postconviction court
had sufficient evidence to find that during the plea hearing on the Washington
County file Hawkins was represented by Attorney Nicol. Accordingly, the district court properly denied
Hawkins’s petition for postconviction relief.
Because Hawkins was represented by counsel
when he entered a guilty plea on the Washington
County file, we do not
address Hawkins’s argument that the district court failed to obtain a formal waiver
of his right to counsel.