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Supreme Court of Montana.

CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Allan GOODMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

DA 20-0287

Decided: January 18, 2022

For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, James Reavis, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana For Appellee: Austin Knudsen, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Jim Nugent, Missoula City Attorney, Patrick C. Lowney, Deputy City Attorney, Missoula, Montana

¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

¶2 Allan Goodman appeals the Missoula Municipal Court's denial of his motion to withdraw his no contest plea, claiming that it was involuntary because he did not know the conviction would increase the length of his federal sentence. We affirm.

¶3 Goodman was charged with violating an order of protection pursuant to § 45-5-626, MCA. He was facing felony federal charges in Federal District Court at the time and was awaiting sentencing. Following Goodman's initial appearance, the Missoula Municipal Court appointed an attorney from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to represent him. Goodman failed to complete his application for a public defender, and OPD moved to rescind the appointment.

¶4 Goodman appeared pro se at his omnibus hearing via video from the Missoula County Detention Center. At the start of the hearing, the Municipal Court confirmed with Goodman that he wished to proceed without counsel. The court read the charge, and Goodman stated, “I want to plead not guilty, but I'm going to federal prison, so ․ I don't know what to do at this point.” The Municipal Court, explaining that it could not advise him on how to plead, suggested scheduling a trial so that Goodman could obtain advice from his attorney in the federal case. Goodman rejected this idea, asking if he could receive a sentence concurrent with his federal sentence if he pleaded guilty. The Municipal Judge explained that it would be unusual for her to impose a consecutive sentence and informed Goodman that the maximum sentence was six months.

¶5 Goodman decided to plead guilty, explaining that he was “going to go to federal prison for some years, so it don't matter.” The Municipal Court inquired if Goodman would prefer a no contest plea; he answered, “yes, that sounds great.” The on-call OPD attorney provided Goodman with an Acknowledgment of Waiver of Rights form, and Goodman signed it. As the prosecutor stated the factual basis for the charge, Goodman interrupted, saying, “blah, blah, blah.” Goodman said, “I don't remember any of that, your Honor, but that will work for me.” The Municipal Court accepted Goodman's no contest plea and sentenced him to six months, all suspended.

¶6 Under the federal sentencing guidelines, Goodman's protection order violation conviction added one point to his criminal history level, raising him from a level II to a level III. United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual, § 4A1.1(c) (Nov. 2018) (“Federal Guidelines”). This increase added between fourteen and seventeen months to the guidelines’ recommended sentence. Federal Guidelines, § 5A.

¶7 Nearly a month later and now represented by counsel, Goodman filed a motion to withdraw his plea. Goodman claimed that the plea was involuntary because the court failed to advise him of the consequences that the plea could have on his pending federal sentence. The Municipal Court rejected his argument, ruling that the impact of his plea on the federal sentence was a collateral consequence of which the court was not required to advise him. Goodman appealed the ruling to the Fourth Judicial District Court, which affirmed.

¶8 When a district court functions as an intermediate appellate court for an appeal from a court of limited jurisdiction, we review the appeal de novo, as though it was originally filed in this Court. City of Bozeman v. Howard, 2021 MT 230, ¶ 8, 405 Mont. 321, 495 P.3d. 72 (citation omitted). “This Court reviews a [trial] court's denial of a motion to withdraw a guilty plea de novo, because whether a plea was entered voluntarily is a mixed question of law and fact.” State v. Hendrickson, 2014 MT 132, ¶ 12, 375 Mont. 136, 325 P.3d 694 (citation omitted). We review the trial court's findings of fact for clear error and its conclusions of law for correctness. Hendrickson, ¶ 12 (citation omitted).

¶9 Goodman asserts that his uncounseled no contest plea was involuntary because he was not aware of the consequence that the misdemeanor conviction would have on his federal sentence. He argues that the consequence “was more direct than collateral,” and, as such, the Municipal Court should have inquired into the impact his plea would have on his federal sentence and should have advised him of his right to counsel again after Goodman proposed a guilty plea.

¶10 A defendant may withdraw his guilty or no contest plea if he shows good cause. Section 46-16-105(2), MCA. Good cause exists if the plea was not voluntary. State v. Newbary, 2020 MT 148, ¶¶ 7-8, 400 Mont. 210, 464 P.3d 999 (citation omitted). A plea is voluntary when the defendant is “fully aware of the direct consequences, including the actual value of any commitments made to him by the court, prosecutor, or his own counsel.” Newbary, ¶ 8 (quoting State v. Warclub, 2005 MT 149, ¶ 18, 327 Mont. 352, 114 P.3d 254). Under § 46-12-210, MCA, a court is required to inform a defendant of only the direct consequences of a guilty or no contest plea, not of any collateral consequences. State v. Liefert, 2002 MT 48, ¶ 21, 309 Mont. 19, 43 P.3d 329. “A consequence is direct if it has a definite, immediate, and largely automatic effect on the defendant.” Liefert, ¶ 22 (quotations omitted). A consequence is collateral if the sentencing judge does not have control over it or if “it is a procedure under the control of a different sovereign or different agency.” Liefert, ¶ 22 (citation omitted). A sentencing judge has no duty to inform a defendant of the federal consequences of a guilty or no contest plea. Liefert, ¶¶ 23-24 (citation omitted).

¶11 As Liefert makes clear, the Federal Guidelines’ enhancement of Goodman's criminal history level was a collateral consequence of his State misdemeanor conviction. The Municipal Court had no control over either the Federal Guidelines or the sentence the federal court may choose to impose. The Federal Guidelines are “effectively advisory[:] a sentencing court [must] consider Guidelines ranges, ․ but [the controlling statute] permits the court to tailor the sentence in light of other statutory concerns as well[.]” United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 245-46, 125 S. Ct. 738, 757 (2005) (citing and modifying 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(4) to sever unconstitutional mandatory language). Goodman argues that, with the advice of effective counsel, he would have understood the impact his plea would have in his federal case. But he refused the appointment of counsel and declined the Municipal Court's suggestion that he confer with his federal attorney before entering his plea. In any event, that the conviction factored into Goodman's Federal Guidelines did not make it a “definite, immediate, and largely automatic” consequence of his plea. The federal judge had discretion over Goodman's sentence and was not bound by the Federal Guidelines.

¶12 A guilty plea “is not necessarily ‘vulnerable to later attack if the defendant did not correctly assess every relevant factor [ ] entering into his decision.’ ” Newbary, ¶ 8 (quoting State v. Lone Elk, 2005 MT 56, ¶ 26, 326 Mont. 214, 108 P.3d 500). Goodman's lack of knowledge regarding the impact his state court conviction might have on his federal sentencing did not give him good cause to withdraw his plea.

¶13 We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion of the Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled law or by the clear application of applicable standards of review. The Municipal Court's judgment is affirmed.

Justice Beth Baker delivered the Opinion of the Court.


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