The post-conviction court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the defendant's plea was intelligent where the defendant did not object at sentencing to the addition of a mandatory 5-year conditional release term that was not expressly included in his plea agreement.
Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hanson, Justice
We are asked to extend the holding in State v. Wukawitz, 662 N.W.2d 517, 520 (Minn. 2003), to allow a defendant to withdraw his guilty plea or the court to modify the sentence where a mandatory conditional release term is not included in the maximum executed sentence described in the defendant's plea petition but the defendant is on notice of the state's intention to seek the term before sentencing and fails to object to its inclusion in the sentence. The court of appeals applied Wukawitz to hold that the plea was not intelligently entered and the sentence must be modified. We reverse.
Respondent Johnnie Lee Rhodes was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(f)(i) and subd. 2 (1998). On May 19, 1999, pursuant to a plea agreement with the state, Rhodes pleaded guilty. The written plea petition reflected agreement to a maximum executed sentence of 105 months and made no reference to the mandatory conditional release period required of sex offenders by Minn. Stat. § 609.109, subd. 7(a) (1998). The conditional release term was not discussed at the plea hearing.
On June 8, 1999, the Presentence Investigation report was issued. Its face sheet included a reference to "Conditional Release: 5 Years" and it concluded with the following "Recommendation":
It is the recommendation of this Officer that the Court accept the proposed plea negotiation and sentence the defendant to 105 months commitment to the Commissioner of Corrections with jail credit of 270 days. It is further the recommendation of this Officer that the defendant be ordered to pay restitution to the victim's family for their out-of-pocket expenses. As this is a sex offense, he is subject to the provision of a specimen for DNA analysis, registration as a convicted sex offender, and a five year Conditional Release period upon his release from custody.
At the sentencing hearing held on June 17, 1999, the state presented the plea agreement and specifically stated to the court that, "along with a prison sentence, Rhodes would be sentenced to a five-year period of conditional release." Neither Rhodes nor his counsel objected to this statement and, when later given an opportunity to speak, neither Rhodes nor his counsel made any statement concerning the plea agreement or the conditional release term. When the district court sentenced defendant, the court stated that Rhodes was subject to the 5-year conditional release term and said "so you'll be on the five-year conditional release after you get out of prison." The court then asked Rhodes if there were any questions or anything that the court had missed and Rhodes' counsel answered, "No, your Honor." The judgment roll included the 5-year conditional release term.
Three years later, on August 14, 2002, Rhodes filed a petition for post-conviction relief, requesting that he be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea or that the conditional release term be reduced to the term of supervised release so that the conditional release term would not cause him to be subject to Department of Corrections' supervision longer than he would have been under a 105-month sentence. The post-conviction court denied Rhodes' petition for relief because "[a]lthough the conditional-release term may have been absent in the plea petition itself, it was incorporated into Petitioner's sentence at the sentencing hearing as required by law." The court noted that "[t]here is no requirement that the conditional release term be mentioned prior to sentencing. Rather, the statute specifically requires it to be included in the sentence." The court concluded that Rhodes was aware of the 5-year conditional release term because it was specifically outlined in the presentence investigation, it was part of the prosecutor's request at sentencing, both Petitioner and his attorney were present when the term was imposed by the Court, both Petitioner and his attorney were active participants at the hearing and Petitioner and his attorney were afforded the opportunity to object or inquire. All of this took place in open court with the Petitioner present.
In reaching its decision, the post-conviction court relied upon an unpublished court of appeals opinion, State v. Norris, No. CX-01-1834, 2002 WL 485292, at *3 (Minn. App. April 2, 2002) (affirming the post-conviction court's denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea because defendant received notice of the conditional release term at the sentencing hearing and failed to object).
Rhodes appealed to the court of appeals, which held that the post-conviction court abused its discretion by not modifying Rhodes' sentence. The court of appeals concluded that Rhodes "did not intelligently enter his plea because he did not know all the direct consequences of his plea." Rhodes v. State, No. C7-03-80, 2003 WL 21452143, at *4 (Minn. App. June 24, 2003). The court, mistakenly believing that Rhodes "does not ask to withdraw his guilty plea," granted Rhodes' alternative request that the "conditional release be modified so that it is concurrent and coterminous with his supervised release, but so that [Rhodes] would remain incarcerated until the normal supervised release date." Id. at *2, *4.
The court of appeals noted that different panels of the court of appeals have reached differing conclusions as to whether post-conviction relief is appropriate under these circumstances. Id. at *3 n.2 (citing Buford v. State, No. C4-01-2137, 2002 WL 31013691 at *3 (Minn. App. Sept. 10, 2002) and ...