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Saari v. State

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 25, 2017

Dylan Jay Saari, Petitioner and Appellant
v.
State of North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Ramsey County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Lee A. Christofferson, Judge.

          Samuel A. Gereszek, for petitioner and appellant.

          Kari M. Agotness, Ramsey County State's Attorney, for respondent and appellee; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          KAPSNER, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Dylan Saari appeals from a district court's order denying Saari's application for post-conviction relief. Saari argues the district court erred by denying his application for post-conviction relief. We affirm the order, concluding the district court properly denied Saari's application for post-conviction relief.

         I

         [¶ 2] On October 24, 2014, Saari was charged with the crime of accomplice to forgery in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-03-01, a class C felony. The charge came after an investigation into his girlfriend's attempt to post bond for him while Saari was detained on a probation revocation. While Saari was detained in October 2014, he made several telephone calls to his girlfriend. During these recorded calls, Saari and his girlfriend discussed how she could obtain money to use to post bond. Saari's girlfriend ultimately passed a forged check belonging to her stepfather while on the phone with Saari. The funds were seized by police when Saari's girlfriend attempted to post bond. Saari pleaded guilty to the crime of accomplice to forgery in violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-03-01 and was sentenced to five years of incarceration to run concurrently with his sentences in other cases.

         [¶ 3] In April 2015, Saari applied for post-conviction relief claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Saari argued his counsel was ineffective for advising him to plead guilty because his conduct did not constitute accomplice liability under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-03-01. Saari argued his conduct instead constituted criminal facilitation under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-06-02. The district court held a hearing on the application. Saari, his trial attorney, and an investigating officer testified at the hearing. At the hearing, Saari argued he did not have the requisite intent for the criminal accomplice conviction. The State argued the recorded telephone calls showed Saari had aided his girlfriend with committing forgery with the intent the crime be committed. Saari argued his trial counsel was ineffective because the attorney did not provide Saari with all pertinent discovery material before entry of a guilty plea. Saari also argued his counsel was ineffective because of failure to obtain a three-year concurrent sentence.

         [¶ 4] The district court denied the application for post-conviction relief. The district court indicated phone call transcripts supported a conviction for accomplice to forgery and found Saari did not overcome the presumption that his counsel's representation fell within the wide range of reasonable, professional assistance. Saari appealed.

         II

         [¶ 5] On appeal, Saari argues his conduct does not support a conviction for accomplice to forgery. Saari argues his conduct only supports a conviction for criminal facilitation, a class A misdemeanor, which makes his sentence unauthorized by law. Saari argues the district court abused its discretion by finding he acted with intent required under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-03-01. Saari also argues the district court's determination Saari's counsel was effective was an abuse of discretion.

         [¶ 6] "Proceedings on applications for post-conviction relief are civil in nature and governed by the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure." Everett v. State, 2015 ND 149, ¶ 5, 864 N.W.2d 450. This Court does not review a district court's decision on an application for post-conviction relief for abuse of discretion. We review a district court's decision in a post-conviction proceeding as follows:

A trial court's findings of fact in a post-conviction proceeding will not be disturbed on appeal unless clearly erroneous under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a). A finding is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if it is not supported by any evidence, or if, although there is some evidence to support it, a reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake ...

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