Cottonwood County District Court File No. 17-CR-12-404
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Nicholas A. Anderson, Cottonwood County Attorney, Lori Buchheim, Assistant County Attorney, Windom, Minnesota (for respondent)
David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Erik I. Withall, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kirk, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.
Appellant challenges his terroristic-threats conviction, arguing that his Alford plea is not accurate. Because appellant did not acknowledge during his plea hearing that the likely evidence is sufficient to convict him of the charged offense, we reverse and remand.
Appellant Gary Lee Hanson, Jr. was staying at K.N.'s house in August 2012. B.S.'s daughter obtained an eviction order requiring K.N. to vacate the premises by August 17. On August 16, K.N. called B.S. to discuss the eviction. During the conversation, B.S. told K.N. that he needed to get the "riff raff" out of the house. Hanson got on the telephone and asked B.S. who he was referring to as "riff raff." Hanson then told B.S. that he was going to walk to his house and kill him that night.
B.S. reported the threat to the police. Officer Dustin Miller took B.S.'s statement and then went to K.N.'s house. K.N. stated that he called B.S. that night and that Hanson got on the phone but that he did not pay attention to what Hanson said to B.S. Y.G. also overheard the conversation and told Officer Miller that Hanson did not threaten B.S. Hanson denied speaking to B.S. and said that K.N. made the threats.
The state charged Hanson with making terroristic threats. Hanson agreed to enter an Alford plea to the charge in exchange for the state's agreement to a downward sentencing departure. The district court confirmed with defense counsel that the agreement contemplated an Alford plea. The district court then stated that it could not accept a plea from someone claiming to be innocent; and Hanson replied, "I guess I am guilty of it." Hanson acknowledged that he received the complaint and reviewed the witness statements, police reports, and other evidence with his attorney. The district court then elicited the following testimony from Hanson.
THE COURT: Okay. And you understand what some of the witnesses claim was done or said on a phonecall that originated between the residence that you were living in in Storden and [B.S.]?
HANSON: Yeah. I read all the complaints and heard all the phonecalls.
THE COURT: Okay. And do you think that if the persons that gave the police reports and the other investigation were testified to before a Judge or a jury in that fashion, that you ...