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In evaluating a motion to withdraw a plea, the trial court should consider whether (1) the defendant was represented by competent counsel, (2) the defendant was misled, coerced, mistreated, or unfairly taken advantage of, and (3) the plea was fairly and understandingly made. On appeal, the appropriate standard of review is whether the district court abused its discretion in refusing to allow withdrawal of the plea. Defendant bears the burden of showing such abuse of discretion. Judicial discretion is abused when judicial action is arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, which is another way of saying that discretion is abused only when no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court.
Defendant and his brother, Yusif Bey, were each initially charged with premeditated first-degree murder in connection with the March 24, 1999, slaying of Victor Conger. The deceased was killed by a gunshot to the head and was found lying in a Pittsburg intersection. Defendant pleaded nolo contendere to aiding and abetting intentional second-degree murder. Subsequently, he moved to have his plea withdrawn, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the defendant contended that: (1) there was no factual basis supporting his plea; (2) the district court erred in not inquiring into the "package deal" involving the negotiated pleas of defendant and his brother; and (3) new material evidence altered defendant's criminal culpability. The motion to withdraw his plea was made prior to the imposition of the sentence.
Did the trial court err in refusing to allow defendant to withdraw his nolo contendere plea?
The court affirmed the decision of the trial court, noting that, in evaluating a motion to withdraw a plea, the trial court should consider whether (1) the defendant was represented by competent counsel, (2) the defendant was misled, coerced, mistreated, or unfairly taken advantage of, and (3) the plea was fairly and understandingly made. In this case, the court held that the defendant did not allege essential elements were missing from the written complaint. The charge was included in the defendant’s motion to enter plea. The court noted that the defendant indicated to the trial court that he read and discussed the plea agreement with his attorney. Moreover, the counsel for the defendant agreed that the facts stated by the State were sufficient to support the plea. The court also held that the trial court's failure to inquire into the nature of the package deal was not an abuse of discretion where defendant was fully informed of his rights.