Blue Earth County District Court File No. 07-CR-11-4169
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Christopher D. Cain, Mankato City Attorney, Mankato, Minnesota (for respondent)
Lori M. Michael, Apple Valley, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.
1. A district court's decision to decline to accept a plea agreement presented on the day a trial is set to begin is a permissible exercise of its discretion.
2. Where a defendant who maintains his innocence testifies that he believes that the state's evidence is sufficient to convict him, and the district court reasonably concludes, based on its assessment of the state's evidence and the testimony of the defendant, that there is a strong possibility that a jury would convict, the factual basis is sufficient to support a plea pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160 (1970).
3. A district court does not abuse its discretion by denying a post-sentence plea withdrawal when the defendant neither formally moves for withdrawal nor makes more than a passing reference to the possibility of proceeding to trial.
We affirm appellant's two misdemeanor convictions based on guilty pleas he entered on the day of trial because (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to accept a plea agreement on the day of trial, (2) the record demonstrates a sufficient factual basis to support appellant's pleas, and (3) appellant did not properly move to withdraw the pleas.
Blue Earth County authorities charged appellant Dusty Karl Klug with misdemeanor domestic assault and misdemeanor violation of a harassment restraining order in October 2011. Over the course of the following year Klug periodically communicated with the prosecutor in an effort to reach a plea agreement. Those negotiations failed and the case was scheduled for trial.
On the morning of trial, with the jury pool waiting for jury selection to begin, the prosecutor offered a plea agreement dismissing one charge in exchange for a guilty plea to the other one. Klug accepted the offer. The district court declined to accept the plea agreement and informed Klug that his options were to plead guilty to both charges or proceed to trial. After consulting with his attorney, Klug entered a guilty plea on the charge of violating a harassment restraining order and an Alford plea on the domestic assault charge. Because Klug's attorney had not had an opportunity to prepare a written plea petition, the district court asked the attorney to prepare and file a plea petition immediately following the hearing. Under questioning by the district court, Klug maintained his innocence but acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to convict him of both charges.
The district court adjudicated Klug guilty of both charges and sentenced him. After sentencing, the district court told the parties that the members of the jury pool would be brought into the courtroom and informed that their service would not be needed. When the district court expressed frustration about the effect of eleventh-hour negotiations on citizens who have cleared their calendars only to find that their service is not needed, defense counsel commented that Klug could "go forward." The district court responded that it was too late to change course because it had accepted the plea and sentenced Klug. Immediately after the hearing and with the assistance of his attorney, Klug completed and filed a plea petition. In the petition, Klug stated that the factual basis for his ...