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State v. Gayles

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 30, 2018

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Donyale Damon Gayles, Respondent.

          Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-CR-17-2523

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, and Mark A. Ostrem, Olmsted County Attorney, Byron H. Black, Assistant County Attorney, (for appellant)

          Zachary C. Bauer, Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Bratvold, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Florey, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         The probable-cause standard applies when determining whether the law and proffered evidence support submission of an aggravating sentencing factor to the jury under Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.04, subdivision 2(a).

          OPINION

          FLOREY, JUDGE.

         The state appeals a district court's pretrial denial of a request to submit aggravating sentencing factors to a jury. Because the district court failed to apply the probable-cause standard when determining whether the law and proffered evidence would support an aggravated sentence, we reverse.

         FACTS

         The state charged respondent Donyale Damon Gayles with three counts of aggravated first-degree sale of a controlled substance; four counts of first-degree sale of a controlled substance; one count of first-degree possession of a controlled substance; and three counts of child endangerment (possession of a controlled substance), after officers orchestrated three controlled purchases of cocaine from respondent. The controlled purchases occurred at respondent's home. During two of the controlled purchases, children were present in respondent's home. Officers executed a search warrant of the home and discovered over 180 grams of cocaine and an unattended child.

         The state provided notice of its intent to seek an aggravated sentence and an upward departure, citing two aggravating factors: the drug offenses were committed in the presence of a child, and respondent has two or more prior violent-crime convictions and is a danger to public safety. The state thereafter moved for a court determination under Minn. R. Crim. P. 11.04, subd. 2(a), of whether the law and proffered evidence supported an aggravated sentence. Respondent argued that the state could not prove that a child witnessed the drug sales, and that the evidence did not support a finding that he is a danger to public safety.

         The district court denied the state's motion to present aggravating factors to the jury. The district court indicated that "motions for aggravated sentences are not governed by a particular standard, " but then stated that it considered the state's evidence concerning whether the offenses were committed in the presence of children "in the light most favorable to the [s]tate." The district court found that there was no evidence that the children saw, heard, or otherwise witnessed the drug sales during the controlled purchases, and that the fact that children "could" have reached the controlled substances was not sufficient to support an aggravated sentence. The district court also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to present to a jury the issue of whether respondent is a danger to public safety, as his criminal history did not indicate a high frequency of dangerous crimes, and he had demonstrated lengthy periods of noncriminal behavior.

         The ...


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