This opinion will be unpublished and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
William B. Simonet, Jr., petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed November 30, 1999
Rice County District Court
File No. T2985637
William B. Simonet, Jr., 1800 Washington Street South, Northfield, MN 55057 (pro se appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
G. Paul Beaumaster, Rice County Attorney, Nathaniel J. Reitz, Assistant County Attorney, 218 Third Street Northwest, Suite 200, Faribault, MN 55021; and
Timothy L. Morisette, Northfield City Attorney, Robert W. Hatch, Jr., Assistant City Attorney, 105 East Fifth Street, Northfield, MN 55057 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Davies, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
William Bronson Simonet, Jr. appeals the denial of his motion to vacate his convictions and/or resentence, claiming the district court erred in not appointing legal counsel to represent him at the time of his guilty plea and sentencing for misdemeanor traffic offenses. We affirm.
Simonet was charged with various misdemeanor traffic offenses. By letter Simonet waived appearance on each offense and subsequently waived his right to pretrial proceedings.
In his first personal appearance before the court, Simonet pleaded guilty to three traffic offenses from separate dates. The judge twice asked Simonet if he understood that by pleading guilty he was giving up his right to a trial and his right to have the state prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and Simonet stated that he "fully realize[d] that." The district court accepted his guilty pleas and told Simonet to "anticipate doing some jail time." The court sentenced him to three concurrent 45-day jail sentences and ordered him to pay a fine of $1,265.
Simonet filed a petition for postconviction relief, seeking a new trial or resentencing, claiming that the court should have appointed counsel to represent him. The court dismissed the petition as untimely, but decided to treat the petition as a motion to vacate the convictions and/or for resentencing and scheduled a hearing on the motions.
Simonet stated at the hearing that he had a law degree and, had been a licensed attorney and was seeking reinstatement, and had practiced law in Minnesota from 1980 to 1988, during which time he had one felony trial and one misdemeanor traffic case. He also stated that he was familiar with his legal and constitutional rights to counsel and that on misdemeanor charges he had a right to retain a lawyer, or if indigent, to apply for a public defender. He agreed with the court that he had not raised the issue of counsel at any time during the proceedings. The court denied the motion to vacate and/or resentence. Simonet appeals.
D E C I S I O N
An appellate court "will only overturn a trial courtís finding of a valid waiver of a defendantís right to counsel if that finding is clearly erroneous." State v. Worthy, 583 N.W.2d 270, 276 (Minn. 1998).
A plea may be withdrawn after sentencing only to correct manifest injustice. Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1 (1998). "The Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee a criminal defendant the right to counsel and, reciprocally, the right of self-representation." See State v. Camacho, 561 N.W.2d 160, 170-71 (Minn. 1997) (citations omitted); Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 807, 818-20, 95 S. Ct. 2525, 2527, 2532-33 (1975). A misdemeanor defendant must also be informed of his right to counsel and must make a knowing and intelligent waiver of that right on the record before pleading guilty without counsel. State v. Nordstrom, 331 N.W.2d 901, 903-04 (Minn. 1983). Manifest injustice entitling a defendant to withdraw a plea will exist if the record does not reflect a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel. State v. Foncesa, 505 N.W.2d 370, 372-73 (Minn. App. 1993).
To ensure a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel, a district court
should comprehensively examine the defendant regarding the defendant's comprehension of the charges, the possible punishments, mitigating circumstances, and any other facts relevant to the defendant's understanding of the consequences of the waiver.
Worthy, 583 N.W.2d at 276 (citation omitted). Even absent a full, on-the-record inquiry, however, surrounding circumstances can reveal that a defendant was fully aware of the consequences of proceeding pro se. State v. Krejci, 458 N.W.2d 407, 412-13 (Minn. 1990). The court questioned Simonet on the nature of each of the charges and on whether he understood that by pleading guilty he was giving up his right to a trial and to have the state prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Simonet responded that he "fully" understood his rights.
The determination whether there has been an intelligent waiver depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused. State v. Richards, 456 N.W.2d 260, 264 (Minn. 1990). Simonetís background includes a law degree and eight years of practice in Minnesota. He was suspended from the practice of law twice and finally disbarred for acts of malfeasance. Simonetís experience with the court system during his years of practice included a felony trial and a misdemeanor traffic case.
Simonetís conduct during the proceedings supports a determination that he knowingly waived his right to counsel. During his postconviction hearing, the court stated that Simonet
was issued citations requiring appearance but sent a letter waiving appearance on each one and requesting that a pre-trial be set. Then when the pre-trial date came he sent a letter waiving the pre-trial and asking that not guilty pleas be entered.
Simonet stated that he knew he had a constitutional right to counsel and that if he was indigent counsel would be appointed. He admitted, however, that he had not requested counsel at any time during the proceedings. See Richards, 456 N.W.2d at 265 (holding defendantís waiver of counsel was knowing and intelligent because he had completed one year of law school; he demonstrated an understanding of court protocol; his motions and memoranda were coherently written and reflected an ability to comprehend his rights; and transcripts reflected his ability to make an intelligent oral argument).
Simonet's background, experience, and conduct support the district courtís determination that he knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel.