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Mille Lacs Academy Cases
This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2012).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Sabin Mitchell Myhra, Appellant.
Filed June 9, 2014
Beltrami County District Court
File No. 04-CR-12-4338
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and
Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, Annie P. Claesson-Huseby,
Assistant County Attorney, Bemidji, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jennifer L.
Lauermann, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Stauber, Judge; and
judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to
Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10. 2
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his 18-month prison sentence for felony check
forgery, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by denying
his motion for a dispositional departure. Because the district court did not
abuse its discretion by imposing a presumptive guidelines sentence, we
Appellant Sabin Mitchell Myhra has a criminal history that includes three
felony theft-by-check convictions, two felony theft-by-swindle convictions,
four gross-misdemeanor theft convictions, one misdemeanor theft conviction,
and three juvenile offenses. He also has a history of mental-health issues.
In August 2012, he was diagnosed with
borderline personality disorder
with histrionic features, cognitive
disorder not otherwise specified,
mood disorder not otherwise
specified, and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified.
As a juvenile, Myhra spent three
years at Mille Lacs Academy, a residential treatment facility.
In December 2012, three months after he was released from prison, Myhra
forged nearly $7,000 worth of checks on his mother’s business account.
Respondent State of Minnesota charged Myhra with one count of felony check
forgery, and he pleaded guilty to the charge. Because Myhra had five
criminal-history points, the presumptive guidelines sentence was a 21-month
executed prison sentence.
Myhra moved for a dispositional departure. At the sentencing hearing,
Myhra’s attorney argued that a departure is warranted based on Myhra’s
"serious and persistent 3
mental illness" and informed the district court "that a community based
placement has been arranged for him." The district court voiced concerns
about protecting the public from additional criminal activity by Myhra, and
Myhra’s attorney conceded that the proposed community-based placement was
not in a locked facility. The state opposed Myhra’s request for a
dispositional departure, noting that Myhra had completed an updated
diagnostic assessment in prison, was assigned a mental-health caseworker
upon release, and was accepted into a mental-health program when he
committed the underlying offense. The state argued that Myhra did not follow
through with that programming. After hearing from the attorneys, Myhra’s
mother, Myhra, and a case manager, the district court took Myhra’s request
for a dispositional departure under advisement.
The district court ultimately sentenced Myhra to serve 18 months in
prison, noting that it did not "find any [reason] to depart from the
court reasoned that it needed to "protect the public from [Myhra’s]
behavior" and stated that "[t]here is a lot of programming in prison and it
appears that [Myhra has] programming when [he] get[s] out." This appeal
1 The presumptive guidelines sentencing range was 18-25 months. Minn.
Sent. Guidelines 4.A. (2012).
D E C I S I O N
A district court may depart from the presumptive guidelines sentence only
if "substantial and compelling" circumstances warrant a departure. Minn.
Sent. Guidelines 2.D. (2012). "Substantial and compelling circumstances are
those circumstances that 4
make the facts of a particular case different from a typical case."
State v. Peake,
366 N.W.2d 299, 301 (Minn. 1985). Whether to depart from the guidelines
sentence rests within the district court’s discretion, and this court will
not reverse the decision "absent a clear abuse of that discretion."
State v. Oberg,
627 N.W.2d 721, 724 (Minn. App. 2001), review
(Minn. Aug. 22, 2001). Only in a "rare" case will a reviewing court reverse
a district court’s imposition of the guidelines sentence.
State v. Kindem,
313 N.W.2d 6, 7 (Minn. 1981).
When considering a downward-dispositional departure, the district court
may "focus more on the defendant as an individual and on whether the
[guidelines] sentence would be best for him and for society."
State v. Heywood,
338 N.W.2d 243, 244 (Minn. 1983). "[A]menability to probation is a
sufficient basis for a downward dispositional departure."
State v. Donnay,
600 N.W.2d 471, 474 (Minn. App. 1999), review
(Minn. Nov. 17, 1999). "Numerous factors, including the defendant’s age, his
prior record, his remorse, his cooperation, his attitude while in court, and
the support of friends and/or family, are relevant to a determination
whether a defendant is particularly suitable to individualized treatment in
a probationary setting." State v. Trog,
323 N.W.2d 28, 31 (Minn. 1982).
Myhra contends that "[t]he district court abused its discretion by
denying [his] motion for a dispositional departure to an alternative mental
health placement as allowed by Minn. Stat. § 609.1055, where [he] suffered
from serious and persistent mental illness and [an] alternative placement
was available in the community." Minn. Stat. § 609.1055 provides that 5
[w]hen a court intends to commit an offender with a serious and
persistent mental illness, as defined in section 245.462, subdivision 20,
paragraph (c), to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for
imprisonment at a state correctional facility, either when initially
pronouncing a sentence or when revoking an offender’s probation, the court,
when consistent with public safety, may
instead place the
offender on probation or continue the offender’s probation and require as a
condition of the probation that the offender successfully complete an
appropriate supervised alternative living program having a mental health
Minn. Stat. § 609.1055 (2012) (emphasis added). Because the statute is
permissive, it does not alter the general rule that a sentencing departure
rests within the sound discretion of the district court.
Myhra argues that under the Trog
factors, "it is
abundantly clear that [he] is amenable to probation and an alternative
placement in an individualized mental health setting." We disagree. Although
the record suggests that Myhra has a serious and persistent mental illness,
it does not show that Myhra is amendable to probation. Myhra was only 22
years old when he pleaded guilty in this case, but it resulted in his sixth
adult felony-level conviction. He also has three juvenile-delinquency
adjudications and was placed in a residential-treatment facility for three
years as a juvenile. Myhra committed the current offense approximately three
months after he was released from prison to "get back at" his mother. At
that time, Myhra had been assigned a mental-health caseworker, had been
accepted into the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services program
through the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center, and had access to
individual and group programming. We therefore disagree with Myhra’s
contention that the district court should have given him "a chance to
participate in community-based mental health 6
treatment and focus on rehabilitation before prison." Myhra had that
opportunity when he committed the current offense.
Moreover, even if Myhra were amenable to probation, it would not follow
that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to depart from the
guidelines sentence. A "district court has discretion to impose a downward
dispositional departure if a defendant is particularly amenable to
probation." State v. Olson,
765 N.W.2d 662, 664-65 (Minn. App. 2009). But a district court does not
abuse its discretion by refusing to depart "from a presumptively executed
prison sentence, even if there is evidence in the record that the defendant
would be amenable to probation." Id.
Myhra also argues that the district court abused its discretion by
failing to "analyze the Trog
factors prior to
sentencing [him] to eighteen months imprisonment." The district court must
"exercise [its] discretion by deliberately considering circumstances for and
against departure." State v. Mendoza,
638 N.W.2d 480, 483 (Minn. App. 2002), review
(Minn. Apr. 16, 2002). "When the record demonstrates that an exercise of
discretion has not occurred, the case must be remanded for a hearing on
sentencing and for consideration of the departure issue."
State v. Pegel,
795 N.W.2d 251, 253 (Minn. App. 2011).
The record shows that the district court exercised its discretion by
considering the reasons for and against a dispositional departure. At the
sentencing hearing, the district court stated that "whether [Myhra] is
amenable to probation is a significant factor." The district court also
stated that "[i]t’s presumed that [Myhra is] supposed to go to prison" and
asked what would "protect the public from [his] behavior" if he were placed
in a 7
mental-health facility. The court also asked about the security of the
proposed treatment facility. After hearing the arguments of counsel for and
against departure, and the statements of Myhra, his mother, and a
caseworker, the district court took the matter under advisement. The
following documents regarding Myhra’s mental health and criminal history
were available to the district court: a five-page presentence investigation
report; a six-page assessment, diagnosis, and plan dated August 30, 2012;
five pages of records regarding his psychiatric hospitalization in 2008; and
a ten-page neuropsychological evaluation dated June 14, 2007. When the
district court announced and explained its decision to deny Myhra’s request
for a dispositional departure at a later hearing, it stated that it needed
to "protect the public from [Myhra’s] behavior." It noted the availability
of mental-health treatment in prison and imposed a bottom-of-the-box
We are satisfied that the district court considered the reasons for and
against departure and that the district court did not abuse its discretion
by refusing to grant a dispositional departure. In sum, this is not a rare
case that warrants reversal of the presumptive guidelines sentence.