This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Bobbie Dale Hill, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed October 26, 1999
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K2972319
J. Anthony Torres, Torres Law Offices, Inc., 1407 W. 76th Street, Suite 400, Richfield, MN 55423 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Jeanne L. Schleh, Assistant County Attorney, Suite 315, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Randall, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Bobbie Hill challenges the district courtís denial, without an evidentiary hearing, of his petition for postconviction relief. We affirm.
Appellant Bobbie Hill was charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, involving a developmentally disabled, ten-year-old girl who had previously been a foster child in appellantís wifeís home. The state filed notice of its intention to offer, as Spriegl evidence, evidence of other sex crimes committed by Hill. Specifically, the state intended to use three prior offenses, which resulted in two felony convictions for criminal sexual conduct.
The state made an offer to Hill under which he would plead guilty to the charged count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. In exchange, the state would not seek an upward departure from the presumptive sentence based on appellantís current charge and prior convictions.
At an October 23, 1997 trial management conference, the district court made a record demonstrating that Hill understood the stateís offer, as well as the potential consequences of not accepting it. Specifically, Hill admitted that he had discussed possible defenses, discovery, and the stateís offer with his attorney. Hill also admitted that his attorney had informed him of the applicability of mandatory sentencing provisions. Finally, Hill admitted that he had been informed of the possibility that his prior sexual offenses could ó and probably would ó be used against him. Notwithstanding those considerations, Hill said that he still wished to go forward with a trial. Following the trial management conference, the state made another offer to Hill that was substantially the same as the initial offer, except that the state agreed to a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines range.
On October 31, 1997, the district court held a pretrial meeting. The district court informed Hill of its inclinations with respect to the trial and potential sentencing. The court advised Hill that if he were convicted, he could expect a minimum sentence of 280 months. The court also said that the chance of Hillís prior sex offenses coming in at trial was "a great likelihood, almost to a sure bet." Finally, the district court informed Hill that it would not, under any circumstances, agree to a guidelines plea agreement after 2:45 p.m. that afternoon.
Later that day, Hill signed a plea petition which stated he understood and waived all of his constitutional rights. He then acknowledged waiving these rights on the record. Hill was specifically asked if he had had enough sleep and he responded, "Yes, sir, Iím fine."
Hillís attorney went over the evidence, Hillís rights, the potential dangers of trial, including Spriegl evidence, and the plea agreement. Hill affirmatively testified that he understood and that he wished to plead guilty.
Hill filed a petition for postconviction relief, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea on the grounds that it was coerced and that he did not have the effective assistance of counsel. The district court denied Hillís petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. In so ruling, the district court found that Hillís plea was voluntary, the allegations in his petition failed to show Hill received ineffective assistance of counsel, there were no material facts in dispute, and the courtís records were adequate for consideration of appellantís claims.
D E C I S I O N
With respect to postconviction proceedings, this courtís scope of review is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence in the record to sustain the findings of the postconviction court. State v. Kelly, 535 N.W.2d 345, 347 (Minn. 1995). This court reviews the postconviction courtís rulings under an abuse-of-discretion standard. State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1994). An evidentiary hearing on a postconviction petition is not required unless the petition alleges facts that, if proven by the preponderance of the evidence, would entitle the petitioner to the requested relief. Minn. Stat. ß 590.04, subd. 1 (1998); Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 356 (Minn. 1996).
In order to be valid, a guilty plea must be voluntarily made. Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 688 (Minn. 1997). A guilty plea that is coerced constitutes manifest injustice, entitling the postconviction petitioner to withdraw his plea. State v. Dahn, 516 N.W.2d 539, 544 (Minn. 1994).
Normally, a postconviction petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to show that his plea was involuntary. Brown v. State, 449 N.W.2d 180, 183 (Minn. 1989); Krominga v. State, 311 N.W.2d 858, 859-60 (Minn. 1981). We conclude, however, that based on the record in this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the petition without an evidentiary hearing.
First, the record conclusively shows that many of Hillís allegations were false. Hill alleged that he was not aware of a number of facts until October 31, the day he pleaded guilty. Our review of the record, however, reveals that Hill was aware of those facts at least eight days earlier, at the October 23 trial management conference.
The remainder of Hillís coercion allegations are conclusory and generalized. A postconviction petition must contain more than conclusory or generalized assertions to warrant an evidentiary hearing. Fratzke v. State, 450 N.W.2d 101, 102 (Minn. 1990); Brown, 449 N.W.2d at 183. Moreover, Hill was not new to the criminal justice system, and he was not in custody at the time he made his plea or during the period between the plea and sentencing. Finally, we are persuaded by the fact that the district court judge who denied the petition was the same judge who was involved in the pretrial matters and knew firsthand the circumstances surrounding the plea agreement.
2. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
The United States Supreme Court, in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984), articulated a two-part test for assessing ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims. Under the Strickland test, the petitioner must show:
(1) that the counselís representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) that there is a reasonable probability that, but for the counselís errors, the outcome of the proceedings would have been different.
King v. State, 562 N.W.2d 791, 795 (Minn. 1997) (citations omitted).
To support his claim that his attorneyís efforts were deficient, Hill argues that his attorney failed to conduct a proper investigation and failed to communicate with him. But, like Hillís coercion assertions, the record conclusively contradicts many of his ineffective-assistance allegations. Moreover, Hill fails to sufficiently allege how further investigation or communication would have compelled him to refuse the stateís offer, which potentially saved him 140 monthsí imprisonment. Finally, we again give deference to the district court judge who had intimate knowledge of the events surrounding Hillís guilty plea.