Mille Lacs County District Court File No. 48-CR-11-1733
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Karen Andrews, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Jan Jude, Mille Lacs County Attorney, Milaca, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Charles F. Clippert, Special Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of felony domestic assault (fear), arguing that (1) his stipulation as to the prior-convictions element was insufficient and (2) the district court erred by using the stipulated convictions both to enhance the offense and to calculate his criminal-history score. We affirm.
Appellant Christopher Boswell was charged with two counts of felony domestic assault (harm and fear) based on an altercation with his girlfriend, E.S., on August 7, 2011. Before trial, Boswell stipulated to the fact that he has "certain priors" that make the charged offenses felonies. Consequently, Boswell's trial focused exclusively on whether he committed domestic assault on August 7. The jury acquitted Boswell of domestic assault (harm) but found him guilty of domestic assault (fear). Based on that finding and Boswell's stipulation, the district court convicted Boswell of felony domestic assault (fear) and sentenced him to 21 months' imprisonment. This appeal follows.
I. Boswell's stipulation is sufficient to establish that he was convicted of two or more prior qualified domestic violence-related offenses.
A conviction of felony domestic assault requires proof that the defendant committed domestic assault "within ten years of the first of any combination of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions." Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 4 (2010). Boswell contends that his stipulation to "certain priors" is insufficient to establish the prior-convictions element of the felony offense because it does not identify the prior convictions with sufficient specificity.
We generally review a claim of insufficient evidence by carefully analyzing the record to determine whether the jury could reasonably find the defendant guilty of the offense charged based on the facts in the record and the legitimate inferences that can be drawn from them. State v. Buckingham, 772 N.W.2d 64, 71 (Minn. 2009). But when a defendant stipulates to an element of a crime, he "judicially admit[s] the existence of that element, thereby removing the issue from the case." State v. Berkelman, 355 N.W.2d 394, 397 (Minn. 1984). In this respect, a stipulation to an element of an offense is like a partial guilty plea. See State v. Kuhlmann, 806 N.W.2d 844, 850 n.4 (Minn. 2011) (drawing parallel between stipulation to an element of an offense and a guilty plea in discussing validity of jury-trial waiver). Accordingly, a stipulation is factually sufficient if the defendant's statements establishing the stipulation, viewed in the context of the record at the time of the stipulation, provide sufficient facts to support a conclusion that the element is proved. Cf. State v. Iverson, 664 N.W.2d 346, 349 (Minn. 2003) (stating standard for reviewing accuracy of guilty plea); State v. Trott, 338 N.W.2d 248, 252 (Minn. 1983) (considering complaint in addition to defendant's admissions in determining factual basis for guilty plea was sufficient).
The complaint alleged that Boswell has three prior assault convictions: a domestic assault from November 2005, a fourth-degree assault from March 2011, and a fifth-degree assault from October 2010. Boswell told the district court he wanted to stipulate "to the priors" to keep evidence of those offenses from the jury. He declared his understanding that he was charged with felony domestic assault "because [he] ha[s] certain priors that make it a felony." And he validly waived his right to a jury determination of the prior-offense element. This ...