This opinion will be unpublished and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

A05-1149

 

 

State of Minnesota,
Respondent,

vs.

Donovan James Robinson,
Appellant.

 

 

Filed June 6, 2006

Affirmed

Peterson, Judge

 

 

Washington County District Court

File No. K4-01-7382

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and

 

Doug Johnson, Washington County Attorney, John W. Fristik, Assistant County Attorney, 14949 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN  55082-0006 (for respondent)

 

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Sara L. Martin, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

PETERSON, Judge

In this appeal from a denial of postconviction relief following a remand by this court, appellant Donovan James Robinson argues that the district court erred in finding that deficient advice from appellant’s attorney was not a material inducement of appellant’s decision to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial on assault charges. Because the record contains sufficient evidentiary support for the district court’s finding, we affirm. 

FACTS

            Following an incident at the correctional facility in Stillwater, appellant Donovan James Robinson was charged with one count of aiding and abetting first-degree assault against a correctional employee and one count of aiding and abetting fourth-degree assault against a correctional employee in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.221, subd. 2, 609.2231, subd. 3(1), 609.05 (2000).  Appellant later pleaded guilty to an amended count of third-degree assault.  Under the plea agreement, depending on his criminal-history score, appellant was to be sentenced to a term of either 27 or 30 months, which would run consecutively to the sentence he was serving at the time of the assault.

            Before sentencing, appellant disputed when his sentence was to begin.  Appellant believed that, under the sentencing guidelines, his sentence would begin on his supervised-release date, rather than upon the expiration of the sentence that he was serving.  When he learned otherwise, appellant made a motion to withdraw his plea.  Neither the district court nor appellant’s counsel advised appellant that he did not have to withdraw his guilty plea in order to challenge the alleged sentencing error.  The district court permitted appellant to withdraw his plea, and the case was tried without a jury.

            The district court found appellant guilty of aiding and abetting first- and fourth-degree assault on a correctional officer.  Appellant was sentenced to 161 months in prison, concurrent with the sentence that he was serving at the time of the assault.  Appellant filed an appeal from his conviction, and the appeal was stayed so that appellant could file a petition for postconviction relief.

            In his petition for postconviction relief, appellant alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney failed to tell him that he could challenge his sentence after pleading guilty without withdrawing his plea.  In denying appellant’s postconviction petition, the district court found that appellant’s attorney failed to inform appellant that he had a right to appeal his sentence even if he accepted the plea offer.  The court determined that appellant’s attorney’s representation was reasonable and that appellant was not prejudiced because it appeared “extremely unlikely that [appellant] would have prevailed on his appeal as a result of his misunderstanding of the sentencing requirements.”

Appellant appealed from the denial of his postconviction petition, and this court concluded that the representation that appellant received fell below objective standards of reasonableness.  Robinson v. State, No. A03-1885, 2004 WL 1728582, at *3 (Minn. App. Aug. 3, 2004).  This court also concluded that, in determining whether appellant was prejudiced by his attorney’s deficient advice, the issue was not whether appellant would have prevailed in an appeal challenging his sentence, but whether, absent his counsel’s deficient advice, appellant would have withdrawn his guilty plea and proceeded to trial.  Id. at *4.  Consequently, this court reversed the denial of postconviction relief and remanded so that the district court could determine whether the deficient advice that appellant received was a material inducement of appellant’s decision to withdraw his plea.  Id.

On remand, the district court held an evidentiary hearing and found that the deficient advice that appellant received was not a material inducement of appellant’s decision to withdraw his guilty plea.  This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

On appeal from a denial of postconviction relief, the reviewing court is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the findings of the postconviction court.  Scruggs v. State, 484 N.W.2d 21, 25 (Minn. 1992).  A postconviction court’s findings of fact are afforded great deference and will not be reversed unless they are clearly erroneous, and the postconviction court’s decision will not be disturbed unless the court abused its discretion.  Shoen  v. State, 648 N.W.2d 228, 231 (Minn. 2002). 

            The district court found that “[t]he deficient advice received by [appellant] was not a material inducement of [appellant’s] decision to withdraw his guilty plea.”  In the memorandum that accompanied the district court’s findings of fact, the district court found

that [appellant’s] anger at his alleged mistreatment by the system was the material inducement for the withdrawal of his guilty plea.

. . . [Appellant] was simply upset and angry that the Department of Corrections had moved his release date and therefore determined to withdraw his guilty plea.  It is not surprising to the Court that [appellant] would now, long after he received a much more severe sentence at the conclusion of the trial, indicate that the alleged motivation for the withdrawal of his guilty plea was the deficient advice provided him by counsel.  It is more plausible to the Court that [appellant] was angry and chose to proceed down a path which led to a substantially increased sentence upon his conviction. 

 

There is sufficient evidence in the record to sustain these findings.

            The district court’s memorandum indicates that as part of the evidentiary hearing on remand, the district court reviewed the transcript of the hearing at which appellant withdrew his guilty plea and, based on this review, determined that appellant “was aware at the time he moved to withdraw his plea that he would be subjecting himself to the possibility of significantly increased penalties as a result of the withdrawal.”  At the plea-withdrawal hearing, appellant’s counsel asked appellant, “So you understand if you withdraw your plea, the exposure will be an additional 98 months sentence tacked on at the beginning of 2004 instead of the 30 month sentence tacked on at the end of 2004, you understand that?”  Appellant replied, “Yes, I do.”  Although he knew that he was facing the possibility of a sentence more than twice as long as his sentence under the plea agreement, appellant withdrew his plea.

            During the evidentiary hearing on remand, the district court asked appellant why he decided to withdraw his plea, and appellant answered, “I decided to withdr[a]w my plea because I know that the sentence imposed was wrong.”  Appellant explained that he asked his attorney how his sentence under the plea agreement could start upon the expiration of the sentence that he was serving, and his attorney did not respond.  The district court then asked, “And so that kind of ticked you off, you got mad?”  Appellant said, “Yes.”  The court asked, “So you withdrew your plea because you were mad, in effect, is that what you’re telling me?”  Appellant said, “Yes.” 

Appellant’s responses to the district court’s questions support the district court’s finding that appellant withdrew his guilty plea because he was angry about his alleged mistreatment by the system.  The responses indicate that appellant believed that under the sentencing guidelines, the starting date for the sentence that he was to receive under the plea agreement was incorrect.  Appellant became angry and decided to withdraw his plea because his attorney did not address what appellant thought was a sentencing error.  Appellant’s testimony supports the district court’s findings that appellant knew that he was facing the possibility of a much longer sentence if he withdrew his plea, but he withdrew the plea anyway because he was upset and angry.

Appellant argues that an affidavit from his trial attorney corroborates his claim that he withdrew his plea because of the sentencing discrepancy, rather than for any other reason.  In the affidavit, the attorney states that at the plea-withdrawal hearing, appellant “explained that he wanted to withdraw his plea because he believed the court was not following the sentencing guidelines.”  There does not appear to be any dispute that at the heart of appellant’s decision to withdraw his plea was his belief that the sentencing guidelines were being incorrectly applied to his sentence.  But the district court found that what appellant perceived to be a sentencing error made appellant angry and that, in his anger, appellant withdrew his plea.  The affidavit does not undermine the district court’s finding that appellant’s decision to withdraw his plea was induced by appellant’s anger.

            Appellant also argues that an August 20, 2002 letter that he sent to his appellate attorney corroborates his claim that he never wanted to go to trial and he withdrew his plea because his attorney gave him inaccurate advice.  In the letter, appellant states, “I had to withdraw the plea . . . because I did not agree to the sentencing procedures.”  But this letter, which was written more than five months after appellant withdrew his plea, does not contradict the district court’s finding that appellant’s disagreement with the sentencing procedures associated with appellant’s guilty plea made appellant angry and that, in his anger, appellant withdrew his plea.  Because there is sufficient evidence in the record to sustain the district court’s findings that appellant’s anger at his alleged mistreatment by the system was the material inducement for his decision to withdraw his guilty plea and that deficient legal advice was not a material inducement of the decision to withdraw the guilty plea, we will not disturb the decision that appellant is not entitled to postconviction relief.  

            Affirmed.