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State v. Baxter

Court of Appeals of Idaho

June 27, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ROY AYERS BAXTER JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 32

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Jason D. Scott, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction for domestic violence, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Andrea W. Reynolds, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Andrea W. Reynolds argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Russell J. Spencer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Russell J. Spencer argued.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge.

         Roy 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.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The 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.

         Baxter 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.

         Based 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.

         Based 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.[1] 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.

         Baxter 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 conviction.

         II. ...


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