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Steven Hattig v. State of Iowa

January 24, 2013

STEVEN HATTIG, APPLICANT-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, John D. Ackerman (motion to dismiss) and Steven J. Andreasen (motion for summary judgment), Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bower, J.

Steven Hattig appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the State on his application for post-conviction relief. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

Steven Hattig appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the State on his application for post-conviction relief. Hattig argues his forty year sentence following his guilty pleas to four counts of sexual abuse in the third degree was cruel and unusual on its face and as applied to him, and the district court therefore erred in granting the State's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In September 1999, the State filed a trial information charging Hattig with five counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, stemming from allegations that Hattig's crimes involved various acts of sexual abuse between 1988 and 1996 against three victims under the age of twelve. Hattig, born in 1980, was nineteen when the trial information was filed, but was no older than sixteen when he committed his crimes.

Hattig entered a plea agreement with the State and pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse in the third degree. Pursuant to the agreement of the parties, the State would dismiss the remaining count and would recommend Hattig be sentenced to a term not to exceed ten years on each count, with the sentences to run consecutively. In December 1999, the district court sentenced Hattig to ten years imprisonment on each count to be served consecutively for a total of forty years, in accordance with the plea agreement.

In May 2010, Hattig filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief. The State filed a motion to dismiss, alleging the application was untimely. In August 2010, through counsel, Hattig filed amendments to his application, alleging his counsel was ineffective and that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Federal and State Constitutions. In September 2010, the district court granted the State's motion to dismiss the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, but denied the motion to dismiss Hattig's claim that his sentence violated the Federal and State Constitutions.

In June 2011, the State filed a combined motion for summary judgment and statement of undisputed facts. Hattig filed a resistance to the State's motion. Following a hearing, the district court entered its ruling finding there were no disputed facts and that the State was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the claim that Hattig's sentence violated the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Hattig now appeals.

II. Scope and Standard of Review.

Because Hattig is challenging the constitutionality of his sentence, our review is de novo. State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 869 (Iowa 2009). This form of review requires our independent evaluation based on the totality of the circumstances presented by the entire record. State v. Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d 260, 264 (Iowa 2010).

III. Discussion.

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution prohibit the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Iowa Const. art. I, § 17; see State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 872, 882 (Iowa 2009). Embodied in this ban is a "concept of proportionality" that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to the offense. Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011, 2021 (2010). A defendant can challenge the proportionality of his sentence under a "categorical" approach, or the defendant can make a "gross proportionality" challenge to his particular sentence. State v. Oliver, 812 N.W.2d 636, 640 (Iowa 2012); see Graham, 130 S. Ct. at 2022.

In this case, Hattig alleges his sentence is cruel and unusual as applied to him. Hattig contends "[a] sentence of 40 years imposed upon a person whose crimes occurred when he was a juvenile is grossly disproportionate." This argument implicates a gross proportionality challenge, namely, a challenge "to the length of term-of-years ...


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