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State of Iowa v. Otis Rollins Jr

March 13, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
OTIS ROLLINS JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Timothy O'Grady, Judge.

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

Otis Rollins Jr. appeals one of his two convictions for child endangerment. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

Otis Rollins Jr. appeals one of his two convictions for child endangerment. Rollins alleges the State failed to prove he acted with knowledge he was creating a substantial risk to his son's physical health or safety. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, we find Rollins's conduct met the elements of the statute and affirm his conviction under Iowa Code sections 726.6(1)(a) and 726.6(7) (2011).

I. Background facts and proceedings

The jury could have found the following facts from the evidence presented. In the early morning hours of March 20, 2011, Rollins returned from a night out to the Council Bluffs home he shared with his mother, Nancy. His nine-year-old daughter, D.R., lived with him, and his eight-year-old son, R.R., and six-year-old daughter were staying overnight. Their grandmother had put them to bed hours earlier, but the children were awake when their father returned home and started making himself something to eat.

Rollins "heard them still playing" in their bunk beds and "threatened to discipline" the children. D.R. and R.R. recalled their father rousting them from their beds and ordering them to stand in the corner. Rollins, his mother, and both children agreed Rollins was holding a knife. D.R. testified Rollins "was waving it around in our faces and yelling at us." R.R. also said his father "put a knife in my face." Rollins denied brandishing the knife at his children and testified to having the knife in the kitchen because he was cooking. As a witness for the defense, Nancy agreed her son was still in the kitchen when he waved a butter knife, saying: "You kids better . . . ." The children reported being scared by the confrontation with their father.

Later that day, Bonnie, the mother of Rollins's two younger children, stopped by Rollins's house to check on them. D.R. told Bonnie that Rollins was "being mean" to the youngest child. When Rollins later learned of D.R.'s conversation with Bonnie, he "took off his belt and started hitting" D.R. She recalled her father saying, "[W]hat happens in the house stays in the house." R.R. witnessed his father beating his half-sister: "She cried and her face turned red and she got black and blue bruises." D.R. told her teacher about the incident, and the teacher notified the Department of Human Services (DHS). A DHS worker interviewed D.R. and photographed her bruises.

On March 30, 2011, the State filed criminal complaints charging Rollins with two counts of felony child endangerment for his acts against his daughter, D.R., and one count of aggravated misdemeanor child endangerment for waving a knife at his son, R.R. The State filed a motion to consolidate the two cases, alleging the offenses happened on the same day. The court granted the motion to consolidate on April 18, 2011.

Also on April 18, 2011, the State filed a trial information charging Rollins with these four counts: (I) child endangerment, in violation of sections 726.6(1)(a) and 726.6(6), a class "D" felony, for his actions resulting in bodily injury to D.R.; (II) child endangerment, in violation of sections 726.6(1)(a) and 726.6(6), for his actions against R.R.; and (III) and (IV) neglect of a dependent person, in violation of section 726.3, for knowingly exposing D.R. and R.R. to hazards they could not protect themselves against. The State later amended the trial information to allege the offenses occurred "on or about the 15th day of March 2011, to and through the 20th day of March, 2011."

Trial commenced on December 20, 2011. Both D.R. and R.R. testified for the prosecution. At the close of the State's evidence, defense counsel moved for judgment of acquittal. The court denied the motion for judgment of acquittal for counts I and II, finding the prosecution generated a jury question, and reserved ruling on counts III and IV. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all four counts.

Rollins filed a motion in arrest of judgment and motion for a new trial, alleging the jury's verdicts were not supported by the evidence. Rollins also filed a memorandum of law in support of his motion for judgment of acquittal on counts III and IV-alleging the only evidence presented by the State in support of these counts was the presence of drug paraphernalia in Rollins's bedroom. The State filed a responsive argument, mentioning evidence at trial showing Rollins's frequent consumption of marijuana in the home, his act of waving a knife at D.R. and R.R., and his use of physical discipline against the children.

At the sentencing hearing on February 27, 2012, the court sustained the motion for judgment of acquittal on counts III and IV. In a written ruling, the court stated the jury convicted defendant of count I "because he caused a bodily injury to [D.R.] by striking her with a belt." The court also stated defendant was convicted of count II "because he used unreasonable force on [R.R.] by striking him with a belt." The court went on to say: "The question is whether evidence of Defendant's previous use of physical discipline with the children or his marijuana use in his bedroom are sufficient to constitute hazards or dangers supporting conviction under 726.3" The court concluded the State's evidence was not sufficient on the neglect counts.

The court did not disturb the jury's verdicts on counts I and II and sentenced Rollins to indeterminate prison terms of five years on the class "D" felony and two years on the aggravated misdemeanor, to be served concurrently. Rollins ...


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