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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

March 11, 2019

Malcolm Antonio Johnson, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

          St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CR-13-4396

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Sean Michael McGuire, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mark S. Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Jonathan D. Holets, Assistant County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Slieter, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When a defendant enters a guilty plea in consideration of the state's threat of a sentence unauthorized by law, the plea is coerced and therefore involuntary and invalid.

          OPINION

          SCHELLHAS, JUDGE

         Appellant challenges the postconviction court's summary denial of his petition to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that his plea was involuntary because the state coerced his plea by threatening a sentence unauthorized by law. We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Malcolm Johnson with second-degree controlled-substance crime after law enforcement stopped Johnson in his vehicle and found 6.2 grams of heroin in October 2013. The state notified Johnson in October 2013 of its intent to seek an aggravated sentence for Johnson as a career offender under Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 4 (2012). In October 2016, after multiple pretrial hearings, the state notified Johnson of its intent to seek an aggravated sentence for Johnson as a dangerous offender under Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subds. 2, 3 (2012). Johnson subsequently entered a guilty plea to second-degree controlled-substance crime under a plea agreement that provided for a 100-month sentence. The court sentenced Johnson in accordance with the plea agreement.

         Johnson filed a timely postconviction petition seeking to withdraw his guilty plea on the grounds that his plea was involuntary because the state threatened him with a sentence unauthorized by law and his counsel provided ineffective assistance. The postconviction court summarily denied Johnson's petition without an evidentiary hearing.

         This appeal follows.

         ISSUE

         Was Johnson's guilty plea involuntary and therefore invalid because the state coerced the plea by threatening to ...


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