Sally Soberg, petitioner, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent.
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This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sally Soberg, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed February 26, 2008
Clay County District Court
File No. KS-05-1441
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ngoc Lan Nguyen, Assistant State Public
Defender, 540 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 300, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul,
MN 55101-2134; and
Heidi M. Fisher Davies, Clay County Courthouse, 807 11th Street North, P.O. Box 280,
Moorhead, MN 56561 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and
Appellant Sally M. Soberg appeals from a postconviction order denying her
petition to withdraw her guilty plea to a second-degree controlled substance offense
under Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subd. 1(1) (2006). She claims that her guilty plea was not
knowing and intelligent because her plea was induced by “undue pressure and fear” and
ignorance regarding “other options for negotiations, including requests for downward
departures.” She claims that her “fear and mistaken beliefs were a direct result of
conversations with her defense attorney,” who “told her that if she went to trial, she
would lose and go to prison for 86 months.”
Finally, appellant claims that the
postconviction court improperly weighed her nine-month delay in filing the
postconviction petition because the petition was timely. Because the underlying record
does not provide evidentiary support for appellant’s claims and the postconviction court
did not err in considering her delay in seeking the plea withdrawal as a factor in denying
her petition, we conclude that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in
denying appellant’s petition, and affirm.
A district court must allow a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty upon a timely
motion and proof that “withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.” Minn. R.
Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1. Manifest injustice occurs when a plea is not accurate, voluntary,
and intelligent; a plea is voluntary if it is not made in response to improper pressures,
inducements, or promises. James v. State, 699 N.W.2d 723, 727-28 (Minn. 2005); Alanis
v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 577 (Minn. 1998).
A criminal defendant has the burden to establish facts warranting the reopening of
her case. King v. State, 562 N.W.2d 791, 794 (Minn. 1997). Here, the record, which
included both the plea and sentencing hearing transcripts, does not provide evidence to
support appellant’s claims. At the plea hearing, appellant answered affirmatively that she
was satisfied with her attorney’s representation, that no one had made any threats or
promises to induce her guilty plea, and that she was aware that the plea agreement
included a 48-month prison sentence and no possibility to seek a downward durational
departure from the presumptive sentence. As it pertained to appellant’s charge and 48month sentence, the court specifically explored the reduction of appellant’s initial charge
from first-degree controlled substance offense to a second-degree offense, as well as
appellant’s failure to obtain a further reduction in the charge by not cooperating in a
police investigation. The court was satisfied that appellant was aware of and fully
understood her rights before accepting her plea.
At sentencing, the district court imposed a 48-month executed sentence, in
conformance with the sentencing guidelines and appellant’s plea agreement. Appellant
contends that the court was “under the belief that a request for a downward departure
would be made.” This claim is not supported by the sentencing transcript, in which the
court, in response to a request by appellant’s attorney to reduce the sentence to the lowest
end of the presumptive sentencing guidelines range, noted that it was bound to follow the
guidelines and her plea agreement in imposing a sentence. Nothing in the sentencing
transcript indicates that the court believed that appellant would be making a request for a
downward durational departure.
Further, the postconviction court, while it denied appellant’s petition on the basis
that the record failed to provide any support for her claims, also concluded that the
timeliness of her claim, nine months after sentencing, or approximately one-third of the
time she would actually serve in prison, was a factor that weighed against her claim.
“[T]he timeliness of a petition to withdraw a guilty plea is a relevant consideration in
determining whether that relief should be granted.” James, 699 N.W.2d at 728. Thus,
the postconviction court did not err in considering any delay in appellant’s seeking
withdrawal of her plea.
On these facts, appellant has not met her burden to show that her plea was other
than knowing and voluntary. For this reason, and because the postconviction court did
not abuse its discretion in denying appellant’s petition, we affirm. See Woodruff v. State,
608 N.W.2d 881, 884 (Minn. 2000) (ruling appellate review of postconviction court’s
denial of petition for postconviction relief is under abuse-of-discretion standard of