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COA rejects defendant’s claim that he thought counsel decided whether to accept or reject plea offer

State v. Nathaniel Lee Mattson, 2019AP201-CR, 6/16/20, District 3 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Mattson pled guilty to domestic battery and disorderly conduct and moved to withdraw his pleas after sentencing. Argued that he did not realize that the decision as to whether accept a plea or go to trial was exclusively his. And during the colloquy the circuit court did not inform him of that fact.

There are two ways to withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing. One is to allege a defect in the plea colloquy under  State v. Bangert, 131 Wis. 2d 246, 389 N.W.2d 12 (1986). The other is to point to factors external to the plea colloquy a la Nelson v. State, 54 Wis. 2d 489, 195 N.W.2d 629 (1972) and State v. Bentley, 201 Wis. 2d 303, 548 N.W.2d 50 (1996). Opinion, ¶20.

The court of appeals observed that Mattson did not present a Nelson/Bentley argument. It therefore analyzed his claim under Bangert and rejected it. While the circuit court did not inform Mattson that the decision to accept or reject a plea was his alone to make, neither Bangert nor §971.08 required the court to ensure that he understood this fact. “The closest any such requirement comes in this regard is that of the court ascertaining whether any promises, agreements, or threats were made in connection with the defendant’s anticipated plea. That inquiry occurred here. Thus, Mattson cannot demonstrate manifest injustice because he is not entitled to plea withdrawal under Bangert.”  Opinion, ¶26.

Furthermore, at the Bangert hearing, the State established that counsel went over the Plea Questionnaire/Waiver of Rights with Mattson and made sure he understood it. The form says “I give up my right to a trial” and so forth. And Mattson testified that nobody try to coerce him into pleading guilty. Opinion, ¶¶31-33.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Andrew Mishlove June 22, 2020, 6:31 am

    I read the appellant’s brief. It seems like this is an egregious case. Strangely, the attorney-client consultations were recorded; so the defense attorney’s conduct was uncontested.

  • Colleen Marion June 25, 2020, 9:14 am

    “Nelson/Bentley” is just a pleading standard. It doesn’t have talismanic significance. All the standard requires is a non-conclusory assertion of facts outside the plea colloquy, which if true, result in a manifest injustice (here- not knowing and voluntary plea). The defense took on its burden of proof. I’m not seeing any basis to conclude that this claim was not properly pled.

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