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State v. Guthmiller

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 18, 2019

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Jonathan James Guthmiller, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable John A. Thelen, Judge.

          Andrew C. Eyre, Grand Forks County State's Attorney Office, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Charles J. Sheeley, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Jonathan Guthmiller appeals from a criminal judgment after he pled guilty to luring a minor by computer. Guthmiller argues the district court abused its discretion when denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and erred by failing to advise him of a mandatory period of probation. We affirm the criminal judgment.

         I

         [¶2] In April 2017 the State charged Guthmiller with luring a minor by computer after an investigation uncovered inappropriate sexual messages and photographs exchanged on the social media platform Snapchat between Guthmiller and a fifteen-year-old.

         [¶3] Guthmiller entered a plea of not guilty. The district court scheduled trial for September 26, 2017. The parties engaged in negotiations before trial and on September 26, 2017, Guthmiller signed a plea agreement entering a plea of guilty to luring a minor by computer. At the change of plea hearing the district court confirmed Guthmiller was aware he was changing his plea pursuant to an agreement and advised he could proceed to trial if he or the court did not accept the plea agreement. The court explained Guthmiller would not be able to withdraw his plea unless the court refused to sentence him in accordance with the agreement. Guthmiller affirmed his decision to accept the plea agreement. The district court verified Guthmiller was freely and voluntarily entering his guilty plea and asked questions to ensure Guthmiller understood his rights. Guthmiller again told the court he desired to plead guilty.

         [¶4] Guthmiller told the court his counsel's representation was satisfactory and he was not under the influence of any intoxicants. The State provided the factual basis for the Alford plea and Guthmiller agreed the State could prove the factual basis beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court accepted Guthmiller's guilty plea.

         [¶5] The district court ordered a presentence investigation report and sex offender evaluation, and scheduled sentencing for January 2018. The sentencing hearing was continued twice. Guthmiller moved to withdraw his guilty plea based on possible new information about purported activity on his Snapchat account. The district court requested briefing on the matter and on April 27, 2018, conducted a hearing on the motion to withdraw. The court denied the motion, finding Guthmiller failed to show a "fair and just" reason to withdraw the guilty plea. The district court also found the State would be prejudiced by allowing Guthmiller to withdraw his plea. Guthmiller was sentenced on May 14, 2018, and appealed on June 1, 2018.

         II

         [¶6] Rule 11(d), N.D.R.Crim.P., governs the withdrawal of a guilty plea and provides differing standards depending on the timing of a motion. State v. Lium, 2008 ND 232, ¶ 11, 758 N.W.2d 711. A defendant may withdraw a guilty plea at any time before the court accepts the plea. N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(d)(1)(A). A defendant also may withdraw a guilty plea after the court accepts the plea, but before sentencing, if the court rejects a plea agreement or if the defendant demonstrates a "fair and just" reason for the withdrawal. N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(d)(1)(B)(i)-(ii). "Unless the defendant proves that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice, the defendant may not withdraw a plea of guilty after the court has imposed sentence." N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(d)(2). "The decision whether a manifest injustice exists for withdrawal of a guilty plea lies within the trial court's discretion and will not be reversed on appeal except for an abuse of discretion." State v. Bates, 2007 ND 15, ¶ 6, 726 N.W.2d 595. A court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, or it misinterprets or misapplies the law. State v. Pixler, 2010 ND 105, ¶ 7, 783 N.W.2d 9.

         III

         [¶7] Guthmiller argues possible new information about purported activity on his Snapchat account is a "fair and just" ...


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