This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).







State of Minnesota,





Laithon Jeremy Woods,



Filed September 4, 2007


Ross, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File Nos. 05063562 and 05073498



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


Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Michael W. Kunkel, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414-3097 (for appellant)


Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Parker, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

ROSS, Judge

Laithon Woods challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas for his role as an accomplice to aggravated robbery and to a second aggravated robbery that included a homicide.  He claims that his admissions during the plea colloquy failed to establish that his co-defendantintendedto cause the victim’s death.  He also asserts that the district court should have exercised its discretion to allow him to withdraw his plea because the state would not have been unduly prejudiced.  Because we conclude that the facts admitted during the plea colloquy established that Woods’s co-defendant intended to cause the victim’s death and the district court acted within its discretion by refusing to permit Woods to withdraw his guilty pleas on the day of sentencing, we affirm.


This case arises from crimes committed by Woods and four accomplices in downtown Minneapolis in September 2005.  As Woods explained the crimes, in the first incident, Woods and four acquaintances were playing dice with another man on a street corner.  Woods lost about $200 to this man during the game.  Woods and the other four accosted him as he began to drive away, causing him to crash his car.  One of Woods’s cousins held the man from behind while Marqual Turner hit him and broke a bottle over his head.  Woods’s group then robbed the man of his money at gunpoint.

They saw this robbery victim again two days later, when Woods and his accomplices were driving in the same area.  While the victim ate inside a restaurant, Woods slashed the tires of his car.  According to the state, the robbery victim discovered the slashed tires, and his friend, E.S., went to find help.  E.S. soon came upon Woods and his band, who decided to rob E.S. also.  Woods approached E.S. under the guise of asking for a cigarette.  But he drew a handgun, demanding E.S.’s money.  E.S. did not comply.  Woods pulled the slide mechanism of the gun twice to intimidate E.S., but E.S. continued to refuse.  Turner then approached E.S. with a different gun.  Woods saw Turner shoot E.S. once, and he saw E.S. fall.  Woods ran away.  As he ran, he heard Turner discharge his gun five or six times.  Woods fled to Atlanta, Georgia.

The state charged Woods with two counts of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery of the first victim.  One month later, a grand jury indicted Turner and Woods, charging them each with one count of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and one count of aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder of E.S.

In March 2006 Woods pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree aggravated robbery and to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder.  The court accepted his guilty pleas after Woods admitted to the facts.  Woods’s plea agreement with the state provided for consecutive sentences resulting in an aggregate sentence of 360 months’ imprisonment.  The district court deferred sentencing.  Co-defendant Turner pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree aggravated robbery and to one count of second-degree murder, and he received an aggregate sentence of 433 months’ imprisonment.  But that same day, Woods sent a letter to the district court requesting it to allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas.

Woods appeared with counsel at his sentencing hearing in May and renewed his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.  As grounds for his motion, Woods asserted that he did not understand that the sentences would run consecutively, felt that the aggregate sentence was too harsh, and believed that he was not guilty of intentional murder.  The district court denied the motion.  It found that the plea petition and the plea colloquy contemplated that the sentences would run consecutively, the detailed nature of the colloquy established a factual basis for both counts, the state would be prejudiced by withdrawal because of challenges in locating witnesses, and the plea agreement was fair.  The district court sentenced Woods to 306 months’ imprisonment on the second-degree intentional murder conviction and 54 months’ imprisonment on the first-degree aggravated robbery conviction, to be served consecutively, for an aggregate sentence of 360 months’ imprisonment.  This appeal follows.


Woods challenges the district court’s refusal to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.  A defendant who has entered a guilty plea does not have an absolute right to withdraw it.  Kim v. State, 434 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. 1989).  Rather, the decision whether to permit withdrawal of a guilty plea before sentencing falls within the broad discretion of the district court, which may allow the withdrawal only “if it is fair and just to do so.”  Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 2 (2006).  The district court must weigh the reasons advanced by the defendant for withdrawal against any prejudice the state would likely incur from any actions it took in reliance on the defendant’s guilty plea.  Id.  We will reverse a district court’s denial of a motion to withdraw a guilty plea only in the “rare case” in which we can fairly conclude that the district court abused its discretion.  State v. Tuttle, 504 N.W.2d 252, 256 (Minn. App. 1993).

A constitutionally valid guilty plea “must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent (i.e., knowingly and understandingly made).”  State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1994).  Woods limits his challenge to the accuracy requirement.  To be accurate, the plea must be supported by a proper factual basis.  Id.  Although the district court need not personally conduct an interrogation to establish a factual basis for a plea, it is the court’s responsibility to ensure that an adequate factual basis is shown in the record.  Id. An accurate plea primarily protects “the defendant from pleading guilty to a more serious offense than he could properly be convicted of at trial.”  Brown v. State, 449 N.W.2d 180, 182 (Minn. 1989).

Woods argues that he entered an inaccurate guilty plea to aiding and abetting second-degree intentional murder because the facts admitted during the plea colloquy “are grossly insufficient to support a finding that Mr. Turner acted with the subjective intent to effect the death of the victim.”  The argument fails.  Woods concedes that the plea colloquy adequately established that the victim’s death was a foreseeable consequence of the armed robbery.  See Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subd. 2 (2004) (providing for expansive accomplice liability for other reasonably foreseeable crimes committed); State v. Jackson, 726 N.W.2d 454, 457, 460-61 (Minn. 2007) (holding murder to be reasonably foreseeable as probable consequence of aggravated robbery where defendant-accomplice acted as lookout and knew of planned crime).  He pleaded guilty to aiding an intentional murder.  Criminal intent is generally proven by inferences drawn from actions in the totality of the circumstances.  State v. Thompson, 544 N.W.2d 8, 11 (Minn. 1996); see Smith v. State, 596 N.W.2d 661, 665 (Minn. App. 1999) (holding that facts elicited during plea colloquy may suffice to infer guilt).  It is impossible to surmise from the admitted facts that Turner had any intent other than to kill E.S.  A person intends a thing when he “either has a purpose to do the thing or cause the result specified or believes that the act, if successful, will cause that result.”  Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 9(4).  Woods admitted that Turner approached E.S. with his gun drawn shortly after Woods threatened to shoot E.S. with Woods’s own handgun while demanding his money.  Woods also testified that he saw Turner shoot E.S.  Woods watched E.S. fall and roll off a car, and then he heard Turner fire five to six more shots as Woods turned and ran.  That Turner drew his gun and fired a single shot during the assault and armed robbery that Woods initiated would have been enough to establish Turner’s intent to kill E.S.  That he fired five to six shots more renders Woods’s argument remarkably unpersuasive.  The admitted facts establish plainly that Turner acted with the requisite intent to kill.  State v. Bryant, 281 N.W.2d 712, 714 (Minn. 1979) (finding sufficient evidence of intent to kill where defendant fired three shots at victim).  Woods was liable as an accomplice to the intentional murder because he participated in the assault in the course of which Turner intentionally killed the victim.  The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion by finding a sufficient factual basis to convict Woods as an accomplice to second-degree intentional murder.

Woods next argues that his assertion of innocence before sentencing presented a fair and just basis to allow withdrawal of his guilty pleas.  This argument is also unconvincing.  Woods’s assertion of innocence at his motion hearing stemmed from his misconstruing accomplice liability.  Woods asserted that he did not fire his gun and that whatever actions Turner took, he took on his own.  This is not an assertion of innocence because “active participation in the overt act that constitutes the substantive offense is not required” to impose criminal liability as an accomplice.  State v. Crow, 730 N.W.2d 272, 280 (Minn. 2007) (quotation omitted).  “If the accused plays at least some knowing role in the commission of the crime and takes no steps to thwart its completion, a conviction as an aider may be upheld.”  State v. McBroom, 394 N.W.2d 806, 811 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Jan. 16, 1987).  Woods knowingly threatened E.S. with his gun and took no steps to thwart Turner’s completion of the deadly assault that Woods initiated.  Woods offered a legally irrelevant factual basis for his claim to innocence, and this defeats his argument that justice requires that he be allowed to withdraw his plea.

Woods maintains that the state would not be unduly prejudiced if he is allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas.  But the district court found that several witnesses were homeless and, having been released from their subpoenas, would be difficult to locate.  Additionally, key witnesses, including the aggravated robbery victim who identified Woods, moved from the state.  The district court properly balanced prejudice and did not abuse its discretion by denying Woods’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.


*  Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.