Opinion No. 32
from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Jason D. Scott, District
of conviction for domestic violence, affirmed.
D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Andrea W.
Reynolds, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for
appellant. Andrea W. Reynolds argued.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Russell J. Spencer,
Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Russell J.
Ayers Baxter Jr. appeals from his judgment of conviction for
domestic violence. Specifically, Baxter argues the district
court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty
plea, because he met his burden of showing a just reason to
withdraw his plea, and the State did not make any showing of
prejudice. For the reasons explained below, we affirm
Baxter's judgment of conviction.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
State charged Baxter with domestic violence, Idaho Code
§§ 18-918(2) and 18-903, and violation of a
no-contact order, I.C. § 18-920, following an
altercation with his wife. At a status conference, counsel
for Baxter informed the district court the parties had an
outline of a plea agreement in place but that Baxter was
going to obtain a domestic violence evaluation before
deciding whether to plead guilty. The State proposed a plea
agreement under which, in exchange for Baxter's guilty
plea to domestic violence, it would recommend a rider if a
domestic violence evaluation showed that Baxter was a high
risk to reoffend or would recommend probation if the
evaluation showed Baxter was less than a high risk to
reoffend. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the State would
dismiss the remaining charge (the no-contact order
violation), no-contact order violations in separate cases,
and a felony influencing a witness charge.
privately retained a psychologist to perform the domestic
violence evaluation and provided the psychologist with copies
of discovery and the preliminary hearing transcript. During
the evaluation, Baxter did not disclose any history of
methamphetamine use and also denied ever hitting the victim.
The evaluation classified Baxter as a moderate to high risk
to reoffend. Upon receipt of the evaluation, the prosecutor
expressed concerns about the result but did not do anything
at the time to address her concerns.
on the evaluation result and during a change of plea hearing
on July 1, 2016, Baxter pled guilty to domestic violence with
the understanding the State would recommend probation. At the
hearing, Baxter testified he had been "out partying and
doing meth" a couple days before the incident. Baxter
admitted that on the day of the incident, he "backhanded
[the victim] in the neck." The district court accepted
Baxter's guilty plea.
on Baxter's testimony at the change of plea hearing, the
prosecutor contacted the psychologist on July 7, 2016, with
supplemental information--specifically, statements that
Baxter made during his plea colloquy about methamphetamine
and hitting the victim--and asked the psychologist whether
this new information had any impact on the
evaluation. One day later, after
considering the additional information, the psychologist
reclassified Baxter as a high risk to reoffend in an addendum
to the initial evaluation. Based on this increased risk
assessment, the prosecutor advised Baxter that the State
would recommend a rider instead of probation.
filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in August 2016,
arguing the prosecutor's intervention with the
psychologist after Baxter pled guilty rendered the plea
agreement meaningless. Baxter maintained he could not have
foreseen the post-guilty plea circumstances that ultimately
resulted in a rider recommendation. The district court denied
Baxter's motion to withdraw his guilty plea during a
hearing on the matter, reasoning Baxter's plea was
knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made. Additionally,
the district court determined Baxter was only motivated to
withdraw his guilty plea after he read the presentence
investigation report (PSI)--which recommended a rider rather
than probation--and that Baxter did not demonstrate a just
reason for withdrawing his guilty plea because the prosecutor
"did not do anything inappropriate in terms of this
evaluation or interaction with the evaluator afterward."
At sentencing, the State recommended a rider. Baxter was
sentenced to a unified term of ten years, with two and a half
years determinate. Baxter timely appeals from his judgment of