Wright, Judge Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-09-9371
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wright, Judge
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2010).
Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Wright, Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of felony fifth-degree assault, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 4(b) (2006). Appellant argues that the district court erred by denying his requests for substitute counsel and compelling him to represent himself without obtaining a valid waiver of the right to counsel. Appellant also argues that the evidence presented during his bench trial is insufficient to support the guilty verdict. We affirm.
In spring 2008, appellant Glenn Francis Hazelton rented living space in the Minnetonka home of S.N. After S.N.'s 11-year-old son, J.N., advised his therapist in May 2008 that Hazelton had physically assaulted him, J.N. and his mother reported to the Minnetonka police three separate incidents of assault that occurred in April or May 2008. Specifically, J.N. reported that Hazelton wrestled J.N. and kicked him in the face; Hazelton twisted J.N.'s arm behind his back; and Hazelton squeezed J.N.'s fingers until he complied with Hazelton's command to "kiss the ground." Following an investigation, Hazelton was charged with felony fifth-degree assault.
The district court appointed a Hennepin County assistant public defender to represent Hazelton. At a pretrial hearing on July 28, 2009, Hazelton moved the district court to discharge his counsel and appoint substitute counsel because, Hazelton maintained, his counsel was not "doing the job" for him. Hazelton's counsel explained that she had limited her contact with Hazelton because he had been aggressive and disrespectful, but she had Hazelton's "best legal interests at heart." The district court advised Hazelton that his counsel had been working "behind the scenes" to assist him by consulting with the prosecutor and the district court clerk, consolidating Hazelton's charges, and rescheduling his trial. Hazelton replied "I just don't want her." The district court advised Hazelton against representing himself and declined to appoint a different public defender. The district court explained that the public defender's office assigns its attorneys; and under its policy, the public defender's office does not assign substitute counsel when a client discharges a public defender. The district court explained that Hazelton's options were to retain his court-appointed counsel, obtain private counsel, or represent himself. Hazelton repeatedly stated that he understood these consequences and permitted his court-appointed counsel to continue representing him at that time.
At a hearing on January 21, 2010, Hazelton again moved to discharge his counsel and sought the appointment of substitute counsel. He explained that his court-appointed counsel had not been communicating with him. Rather, she had yelled at him, "stormed" out of a meeting, "hung up the phone" when he attempted to make suggestions about his case, and declined to investigate witnesses and other aspects of the case that Hazelton suggested. The district court again advised Hazelton that his options were to retain his court-appointed counsel, obtain private counsel, or represent himself. Stating that he understood those choices, Hazelton discharged his court-appointed counsel and declared his intention to obtain private counsel. The district court continued the trial to permit Hazelton to do so.
On May 28, 2010, Hazelton appeared with his private counsel, who moved to withdraw as counsel because Hazelton could not pay his attorney fees. Hazelton's private counsel told the district court that he had urged Hazelton "very strongly" to obtain a public defender to represent him and vouched for the experience and commitment of the court-appointed counsel that Hazelton had previously discharged. The district court permitted Hazelton's private counsel to withdraw and advised Hazelton that he could contact the public defender's office and attempt to obtain his previously appointed counsel.
Hazelton did not obtain counsel. Instead, he represented himself at a three-day bench trial in September 2010. The state's witnesses included J.N., J.N.'s parents, and two Minnetonka police officers who had interviewed J.N. and his parents. Admitted in evidence without objection were certified copies of Hazelton's July 10, 2007 Petition to Enter a Plea of Guilty and an accompanying October 2, 2007 sentencing order for domestic assault by strangulation in State v. Hazelton, No. 27-CR-07-026483. Also admitted in evidence without objection was a certified copy of the Minnesota State Court Information System (MNCIS) Register of Actions for State v. Hazelton, No. 27-CR-05-018025, which reflects that on June 14, 2005, Hazelton pleaded guilty to violating a domestic abuse order for protection, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 14(a) (2004).
In its October 25, 2010 order, the district court found Hazelton guilty of felony fifth-degree assault. The district court found that J.N.'s testimony regarding the assault incidents is credible and consistent with the statements J.N. made to his therapist and the police. The district court also found that the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Hazelton intentionally inflicted bodily harm on J.N. and caused physical pain when doing so, within three years of two prior qualified ...