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State v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 22, 2019

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Juan Neil Garcia, Appellant.

          Dakota County District Court File No. 19HA-CR-17-1419

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Charles C. Cremens, Assistant County Attorney, Hastings, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jenna Yauch-Erickson, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Judge; and Jesson, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         In an appeal challenging the district court's omnibus-hearing decision rejecting a criminal defendant's entrapment defense, this court will review factual findings for clear error and legal conclusions de novo.

          OPINION

          ROSS, JUDGE

         Juan Garcia acted as the middleman in a parking-lot drug exchange between a drug seller and a confidential police informant after the informant had urged him many times to serve as the courier between the two. Garcia challenged his consequent drug-sale charge by arguing that police had entrapped him. The district court rejected the argument and found Garcia guilty of first-degree sale of a controlled substance. We reverse and remand for more proceedings because the district court erroneously held that Garcia failed to show that the government induced him to participate in the transaction.

         FACTS

         The state charged Juan Garcia with first-degree sale of a controlled substance under Minnesota Statutes, section 152.021, subdivision 1(1) (2014), and Garcia challenged the charge by claiming entrapment, alleging the following facts.

         A casual acquaintance of Garcia's, R.M., introduced his girlfriend H.F. to Garcia in 2014. Garcia encountered H.F. again at a fantasy-football draft party about a year later in August 2015. He saw her with Michael Walker, whom she described as her drug source. She urged Garcia not to tell R.M. about her being there with Walker, saying that she feared that R.M. would suspect that she and Walker were romantically involved.

         In November 2015, H.F. contacted Garcia through social media, asking for his phone number. Garcia gave her his number and she called him. She told Garcia about tension between her and R.M. and asked if he would help her get drugs from Walker. She told him that R.M. would beat her out of jealousy if she contacted Walker directly. Garcia said no. He said that he was on parole and did not want to be involved in any crime. H.F. then offered to give Garcia $50 to help her get drugs from Walker. Garcia again refused, and the call ended. H.F. called Garcia multiple times in the following weeks, but Garcia refused to answer because he believed that she intended to keep urging him to serve as a middleman in her drug dealing with Walker and he did not want to participate.

         Garcia eventually answered a call from H.F. in December 2015. She asked what he was doing. He said that he was planning to attend a fantasy-football meeting and that, afterwards, he needed to pick up pre-ordered Christmas gifts at the West St. Paul Walmart. H.F. asked if Walker would be at the meeting, and Garcia said that he assumed he would be. H.F. asked Garcia if he would agree to hand his cell phone to Walker so she could arrange to buy drugs from him. She told him that she had become desperate for drugs, reiterated that she could not contact Walker directly, and emphasized that she feared she would be beaten by R.M. if she did so. Garcia then agreed to let Walker use his phone at the meeting if he showed up.

         At the meeting Walker asked Garcia to use his cell phone, promising to erase any history of his call to H.F. Garcia allowed Walker to use his phone. Garcia believed that any drug deal between H.F. and Walker would occur at the meeting and that they would not ask him to be involved. But after Walker ended his hour-long discussion with H.F. on Garcia's phone, Walker told Garcia that he and H.F. had arranged to complete the drug ...


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