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State v. Tatum

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 25, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
John Carson Tatum, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Dakota County District Court File No. 19HA-CR-11-92.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Karen Wangler, Assistant County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota (for respondent)

Cathryn Middlebrook, Interim Chief Appellate Public Defender, Anders J. Erickson, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Ross, Judge.

HALBROOKS, Judge

In this combined direct and postconviction appeal, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his request to withdraw his guilty plea on the ground that the plea was involuntary. Because appellant's argument lacks support in the record, we affirm.

FACTS

Appellant John Carson Tatum was criminally charged with hiring a minor for prostitution in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.324, subd. 1(b)(2) (2010); solicitation of a child to engage in sexual contact in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.352, subd. 2a(1) (2010); and fifth-degree controlled-substance possession in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(a)(1) (2010). Tatum pleaded not guilty, and a jury trial was scheduled to begin October 18, 2011. The state subpoenaed ten witnesses, including the victim, in preparation for trial.

On the first day of trial, the prosecutor informed Tatum's attorney, C.L., that the victim had been subpoenaed to testify, had met with and was cooperating with the prosecution, and was planning to testify at trial. C.L. relayed this information to Tatum, and Tatum decided to plead guilty because he did not want to put the victim "through any further emotional duress or discomfort." Pursuant to a plea agreement, Tatum pleaded guilty to the solicitation-of-a-child charge, and the state dismissed the remaining charges.

At the sentencing hearing, Tatum notified the district court that he wanted to discharge his attorney and file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court continued sentencing. Tatum subsequently filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that C.L. refused to try his case and misled him about the victim's availability to testify at trial. Following a contested evidentiary hearing, in which both C.L. and Tatum testified, the district court denied Tatum's motion. The district court sentenced Tatum to 43 months' imprisonment.

Tatum filed a notice of appeal but later requested a stay of appeal in order to file a petition for postconviction relief. We granted Tatum's motion and stayed his direct appeal pending postconviction proceedings in district court.

In his postconviction petition, Tatum argued that his plea was involuntary because C.L. was unprepared and unwilling to take his case to trial and had provided Tatum with misleading information about the victim's plan to testify. The district court denied Tatum's petition, concluding that his ...


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