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State of Idaho v. Charles Earl Guess

April 25, 2013

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CHARLES EARL GUESS,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Latah County. The Hon. John R. Stegner, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eismann, Justice.

2013 Opinion No. 54

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The order of the district court is affirmed.

This is an appeal out of Latah County from an order denying the defendant's motion to set aside his guilty plea to aggravated assault and dismiss the charge after he had successfully completed his five years of probation. He contends that the terms of his plea agreement entitled him to the relief he requested and, if it does not, that the court abused its discretion in denying the motion based upon the fear of the victim, his ex-wife. We affirm.

I. Factual Background.

On April 26, 2006, during the pendency of divorce proceedings, Charles Earl Guess, his wife, and their respective attorneys agreed that Ms. Guess and her attorney would meet Mr. Guess at the parties' residence so that they could walk through the house and look in the vault with Mr. Guess present. When Ms. Guess and her attorney arrived at the house located near Moscow, they walked with Mr. Guess into the basement where the vault was located. Mr. Guess allowed his wife and her attorney to walk into the vault first, and then he pulled out a semiautomatic pistol, pointed it at them, and stated that he was going to kill them. While holding the pistol in his right hand, he struck Ms. Guess twice in the face with his left fist. She and her attorney were ultimately able to talk Mr. Guess into putting the gun down. After Ms. Guess and her attorney were able to leave the house, they drove to Moscow to seek medical care for her and to contact the police.

The State charged Mr. Guess with two counts of aggravated assault, both felonies, and one count of battery, a misdemeanor. Ultimately, he and the State entered into a written plea agreement. The State agreed to file an amended information charging him with one count of aggravated assault alleged to have been committed against both victims, to which he would plead guilty. The State would recommend that he be sentenced to a withheld judgment and be placed on probation for no more than five years, and he could withdraw his guilty plea if the district court was unwilling to impose a sentence consistent with that recommendation. Mr. Guess pled guilty to the charge, and on August 31, 2006, the court imposed a sentence consistent with the written plea agreement, with the period of probation being five years.

On March 24, 2009, Mr. Guess filed a motion asking to be released from probation, to be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea, and to have the charge dismissed. In opposition to the motion, the State filed a letter from Ms. Guess in which she described the crime, stated that he had never apologized, and described the physical pain, flashbacks, and fear that she was still experiencing from the crime. After hearing arguments on the motion and reviewing the court file, the district court denied the motion without prejudice. On September 28, 2009, Mr. Guess filed a motion to be transferred to unsupervised probation, which the court granted on January 27, 2011.

On September 7, 2011, Mr. Guess filed another motion pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2604(1) asking to withdraw his guilty plea and to have the charge dismissed. He supported the motion with his affidavit and fourteen letters of support. The motion was argued to the court, and Ms. Guess made a brief statement in which she said she was still in fear of Mr. Guess. The court again denied the motion without prejudice. It stated that while Mr. Guess had performed as well on probation as any defendant the court could remember, he had committed an abominable crime and Ms. Guess was still in fear.

On January 19, 2012, Mr. Guess filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement, contending that the agreement provided that he could withdraw his guilty plea and have the charge dismissed if he successfully completed his probation. In the alternative, he again asked for relief pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2604(1). After hearing arguments of the parties, the district court denied the motion. Mr. Guess then timely appealed.

II.

Did the District Court Err in Holding that the Plea Agreement Did Not Require that Mr. Guess Was Entitled to Withdraw His Guilty Plea and Have the Charge Dismissed?

Mr. Guess contends that the terms of the plea agreement entitled him to withdraw his guilty plea and to have the charge dismissed if he successfully completed his period of probation. Neither the prosecutor nor the district court could agree to such a plea agreement, and neither of them did.

a. A plea agreement cannot include a provision that the defendant is entitled to withdraw his or her plea of guilty and have the charge dismissed upon successful completion of probation. A court does not have the inherent power to permit a defendant to withdraw his or her guilty plea and have the charge dismissed upon successful completion of probation. State v. Funk, 123 Idaho 967, 969, 855 P.2d 52, 54 (1993). The power of a court to permit a defendant to withdraw his or her guilty plea and have the charge dismissed is controlled by Idaho Code section 19-2604(1). When Mr. Guess and the prosecutor entered into the written plea agreement on June 16, 2006, the relevant portion of that statute provided:

If sentence has been imposed but suspended, or if sentence has been withheld, upon application of the defendant and upon satisfactory showing that the defendant has at all times complied with the terms and conditions upon which he was placed on probation, the court may, if convinced by the showing made that there is no longer cause for continuing the period of probation, and if it be compatible with the public interest, terminate the sentence or set aside the plea of guilty or conviction of the ...


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