State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. James Michael Soderbeck, Appellant.Annotate this Case
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480 A. 08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALSA06-1105
State of Minnesota,
James Michael Soderbeck,
Filed September 11, 2007Affirmed Worke, Judge
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K0-05-3323
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mark N. Lystig, Assistant County Attorney, 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Paul J. Maravigli, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Worke, Judge; and Willis Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from a conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, appellant argues that his prior gross-misdemeanor conviction for terroristic threats was not a "crime of violence" because it was not a felony and the district court denied his due-process right to present a mistake-of-law defense. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Appellant James Michael Soderbeck argues that the district court erred by determining that he is subject to a firearms restriction because he had been convicted of a crime of violence, under Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (2004). Statutory construction is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. State v. Stewart,624 N.W.2d 585, 588 (Minn. 2001). The purpose of all statutory interpretation is to discern the intention of the legislature. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2004). Words and phrases must be construed according to their common meaning unless they have otherwise acquired a technical or special meaning. Minn. Stat. § 645.08(1) (2004).
Appellant was convicted of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2004), which provides that a person who has been convicted of a crime of violence shall not be entitled to possess any firearm. A crime of violence includes a felony conviction of terroristic threats, under Minn. Stat. § 609.713. Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5. In April 2004, appellant pleaded guilty to terroristic threats, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.713 (2002); therefore, he has a prior conviction of a crime of violence and is ineligible to possess firearms. But appellant argues that because under Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5, a crime of violence is a felony conviction, and he was discharged from probation and his felony was deemed a gross misdemeanor, he was not convicted of a crime of violence.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently rejected appellant's argument. State v. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d 128 (Minn. 2007). Anderson argued that because his prior felony burglary conviction was deemed a misdemeanor after he was discharged from probation, he was not convicted of a "crime of violence." Id. at 135. Anderson also argued, as appellant now does, that amendments to Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5, indicate the legislature's intent to exclude felonies later deemed misdemeanors from "crimes of violence." Id. In rejecting Anderson's argument, the supreme court relied on State v. Moon, 463 N.W.2d 517 (Minn. 1990), in determining that the elements of a prior offense, rather than subsequent disposition, determined whether an offense is a crime of violence. Id.at 136. Because Anderson rejects appellant's argument, the district court did not err by determining that appellant is subject to a firearms restriction because he had been convicted of a crime of violence.
Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by precluding him from presenting a mistake-of-law defense. Appellant wanted to show that he did not have the required intent of possessing a firearm when he was ineligible to do so, but rather, that he relied on his prior attorney's advice that he was eligible to possess firearms. This court defers to the district court's exercise of discretion in evidentiary matters. State v. Kelly, 435 N.W.2d 807, 813 (Minn. 1989). Absent a clear abuse of discretion, the ruling will stand. State v. Jones,347 N.W.2d 796, 802 (Minn. 1984). If the district court's exclusion of evidence violated a defendant's constitutional right to present a defense, the decision will not be reversed if it is found to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Kelly, 435 N.W.2d at 813. An evidentiary ruling is prejudicial if there is a reasonable possibility the error may have contributed to the conviction. Id.
Appellant claims that he relied on his prior attorney's advice that he would not be ineligible to possess firearms after he was discharged from probation and his offense was deemed a gross misdemeanor. Appellant provided an affidavit of his prior attorney indicating that he advised appellant that the gross-misdemeanor conviction would not affect his right to possess firearms. Appellant cites to State v. Jacobson, in which the defendant relied on advice from his attorney and a letter from a county attorney interpreting Minnesota's voting and election laws and determining that certain acts were not criminal. 697 N.W.2d 610, 613 (Minn. 2005). The supreme court in Jacobson held that, although mistake of law is generally not a defense, it may negate the mental state required for a crime. Id. at 615. The court determined that Jacobson's mistake-of-law defense was relevant because he, in good faith, believed that procuring others to list his business as their residence on their voter-registration cards was not illegal. Id.at 616.
Here, appellant relied on advice from his prior attorney and nothing else. Conversely, in Jacobson, the defendant relied on a county attorney, who indicated in a letter that acts similar to those that Jacobson intended to do were not criminal. Id.at 613. Additionally, in this case, the discharge order indicated that although appellant would not have a felony conviction, he was not entitled to "ship, transport, possess or receive a firearm pursuant to [Minn. Stat. §] 242.31 for the remainder of [his] lifetime." Because appellant did not rely on anything other than his attorney's advice, and the discharge order explicitly informed appellant that he could not possess firearms, the district court did not abuse its discretion in precluding appellant from presenting a mistake-of-law defense. See Jacobson, 697 N.W.2d at 615 ("As a general rule, mistake or ignorance of the law is not a defense.").