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State v. McKeehan

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 3, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Nathan Jon McKeehan, Appellant.


Anoka County District Court File No. 02-CR-11-4444.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Anthony C. Palumbo, Anoka County Attorney, M. Katherine Doty, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka, Minnesota (for respondent).

Melissa Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, Eagan, Minnesota (for appellant).

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.


Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his plea-withdrawal motion. He contends that a manifest injustice requires withdrawal and that the district court abused its discretion by concluding that it is not fair and just to allow withdrawal. We affirm.


Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Nathan Jon McKeehan with one count of first-degree controlled-substance sale and one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree controlled-substance sale, stemming from a controlled buy of methamphetamine. On the third day of his jury trial, McKeehan pleaded guilty to first-degree controlled-substance sale in exchange for the state's agreement to dismiss the conspiracy charge and a downward durational sentencing departure. The prosecutor noted that the state's departure recommendation was conditioned on McKeehan remaining law abiding pending sentencing.

The district court clarified that to "remain law abiding means no use of any mood-altering chemicals" and ordered McKeehan to submit to random drug testing. McKeehan asked when he would be required to take the first drug test. In response, the district court asked McKeehan if he was under the influence. After McKeehan and his attorney had an opportunity to confer outside of the courtroom, McKeehan's attorney assured the court that McKeehan was "not under the influence of drugs this morning, " that McKeehan was "clear-minded, " and that McKeehan understood what was going on. But counsel also advised the district court that if McKeehan "were to take a UA today, it would probably [be] dirty." The district court stated that a drug test would be given that day to establish a "baseline, " after which, "it needs to go down. If it doesn't go down, then that's a violation." McKeehan told the district court that he understood.

Next, McKeehan and his attorney reviewed a petition to plead guilty on the record, and the district court accepted the petition. The prosecutor then stated that the terms of the plea agreement "between the state and the defendant, " included the condition that "there must be no use, and the defendant must appear for any UAs on demand." McKeehan stated that he understood. Finally, the prosecutor and the court questioned McKeehan to establish a factual basis.

At the end of the hearing, the district court asked McKeehan's attorney if he planned to accompany his client to provide a urine sample. McKeehan asked: "It's just downstairs, right?" The court confirmed the testing location, and McKeehan responded: "I know where it is." The hearing ended shortly after 10:00 a.m. At approximately 4:40 p.m., McKeehan provided his baseline urine sample.

On December 19, 2011, four days after his guilty plea, McKeehan failed a drug test, and on January 3, 2012, he failed to report for testing. After learning that the state would not recommend the sentence contemplated by his plea agreement because he violated the conditions of release, McKeehan moved to withdraw his guilty plea. His initial motion stated that "at the time of the plea he was under the influence of drugs, did not understand the proceeding and vaguely remembers being there." In addition to filing the plea-withdrawal motion on McKeehan's behalf, McKeehan's attorney moved to withdraw as counsel. The district court allowed McKeehan's attorney to withdraw and appointed a public defender to represent McKeehan. The public defender filed an amended plea-withdrawal motion that added an additional ground for withdrawal: "the court improperly injected itself into plea negotiations/agreement by adding the term of 'no use of any mood altering chemicals' as a condition of the plea agreement." McKeehan also moved for a downward durational sentencing departure.

The district court held a contested evidentiary hearing on McKeehan's plea-withdrawal motion. At that hearing, the state presented testimony from Joseph Morris, the corrections-department employee who collected McKeehan's baseline urine sample. Morris testified that McKeehan was nervous and shaky when he arrived to give his sample. Morris asked McKeehan if he was okay, and McKeehan responded that he was "high as hell." McKeehan told Morris that after his morning court appearance, he and his friends had driven around getting high because he knew he needed to provide a baseline urine sample. Morris testified that he was so concerned about McKeehan's condition that he followed McKeehan out of the courthouse to make sure he ...

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