Cloquet murder suspect seeks to withdraw guilty plea

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A Cloquet man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July is now asking to withdraw his guilty plea.

Wayne Joseph Bosto, 34, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in State District Court in Carlton County on July 28, telling the court he shot John Francis Korby after an argument on Dec. 23, 2016 at a home on Wolf Ridge Road in Cloquet. Although he admitted to the court that he shot to kill, Bosto — who had both methamphetamine and marijuana in his bloodstream at the time of the shooting — couldn’t recall what the argument was about or how many times he shot Korby.

Bosto’s attorney, public defender Kevin Cornwell, argued that Bosto was under “extreme emotional duress” when he agreed to the plea deal, as he was facing the possibility of a sentence of life in prison if he were tried for first-degree murder.

Cornwell told Judge Robert Macaulay that Bosto believes the pressure he faced placed him in a position where his plea was not totally voluntary. The attorney asked the court to allow the withdrawal because “it is fair and just,” one of two legal reasons a district court can allow a criminal defendant to withdraw a guilty plea.

Assistant Carlton County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher argued against the motion. Noting that a defendant does not have an absolute or automatic right to withdraw a guilty plea, Boucher claimed Bosto’s guilty plea met every necessary element for a valid plea, and it was accepted by the court.

Additionally, Boucher noted that Bosto had partly initiated the plea agreement negotiations and confirmed his plea was voluntary in court in July.

In his written memorandum in opposition, Boucher cited case law that a plea is not “involuntary” simply because it is motivated by a desire for the certainty of penalty. He also argued Friday that “emotional stress at the time of the plea” is not a valid basis for withdrawing a guilty plea if the record shows the plea was voluntary.

After allowing both the defense and prosecution to make their arguments and rebut each other, Macaulay said he would take the matter under advisement and issue a written order. He didn’t give a date, though sentencing in the case is tentatively set for Oct. 6.

Bosto faces more than 35 years in prison if the guilty plea stands.