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Robert S. Finzel v. State of Iowa

April 10, 2013

ROBERT S. FINZEL, APPLICANT-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L. Ackley, Judge.

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

Finzel appeals the district court's summary dismissal of his application for post-conviction relief. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

Robert Finzel appeals the district court's summary dismissal of his application for post-conviction relief. He contends his trial counsel's ineffective assistance resulted in his Alford plea being neither knowing nor voluntary. An Alford plea is a variation of a guilty plea whereby the defendant does not admit participation in the criminal acts, but consents to a finding of guilt and imposition of a sentence. North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37 (1970). We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The minutes of testimony provide the following facts. In August 2009, Gabrielle Allen was sitting in her car in the mall parking lot with the window rolled down while she was waiting to go to work. Allen heard a male voice saying "give me your purse, keys, and phone." She looked to see who it was and saw a man standing next to her car holding a black-handled steak knife. He repeated his statement, she complied, and he ran away. Allen exited her car and ran after the man while yelling for help. Allen saw him enter a car with Iowa plate 239 WKW.

Amy Koeller observed a man carrying a purse running through the mall parking lot and entering a car with Iowa plate 239 WKW. Amy heard a woman yelling for her to call the police, so she placed the call.

Officer Steil heard a dispatch of an armed robbery at the mall and dispatch provided the license plate number 239 WKW. Another officer knew the address of the car owner's girlfriend, Torris Loucks. Officer Fairchild located the car in Loucks's apartment building parking lot. During a phone call, the car owner told the police Loucks had his car that day. Another person found Allen's purse on the street and turned it over to the police.

Officers obtained and executed a search warrant for the Loucks apartment. Finzel was located hiding behind a bathroom door. The officers found Allen's missing property in the Loucks apartment and also found a black-handled steak knife in a drying basket in the kitchen. Allen was brought to the area, and she identified her missing property and identified Finzel as the person who took her purse and property.

Robert Finzel also goes by the name Shane Cupps. During Loucks's interview with the police, she gave conflicting stories. She first told police she drove her friend Shane Cupps to the mall and when he returned to the car, he was not carrying anything and he did not throw anything out the window. She dropped Cupps off on a street corner and came home alone. After the police informed Loucks they had recovered Allen's purse, Loucks "then stated 'he did throw something out the window'" and it was a brown medium purse. Loucks stated Shane did not have a knife.

In September 2009, the State charged Finzel with first-degree robbery.*fn1 In October, Loucks was charged with aiding and abetting the robbery. In December 2009, Finzel and the State signed a memorandum of plea negotiations involving four criminal cases. The State agreed to reduce the robbery charge to second-degree robbery, and Finzel agreed to plead guilty.*fn2 Finzel also agreed to plead guilty to an escape charge, and to stipulate to probation violations in two other cases. The parties agreed to jointly recommend sentences of an indeterminate ten years for second-degree robbery, thirty days in jail for escape, and revocation of both probations and imposition of the previously-suspended sentences, with those sentences served concurrently with the robbery sentence.

At the plea hearing, defense counsel Kaufman informed the court:

[T]he robbery case will be an Alford plea. [Finzel] does not deny taking the purse from the alleged victim in this case. He denies having a knife. But we did do a deposition of the victim, and she testified under oath that it was a knife, You Honor. And also early communications to 911 indicate that there was a knife. And as a result of that, [Finzel] has decided to give an Alford plea to a robbery second as opposed to risking a robbery first degree.

In addition . . . because the sentence is mandatory, he would prefer just to be sentenced today, to waive his time for sentencing and the motion in arrest of judgment and to have the presentence investigation followed and just move on, Your Honor.

The court accepted Finzel's pleas and stipulations to probation violations following a full colloquy. During the colloquy, Finzel stated he was satisfied with his trial attorney's services and stated the testimony in the minutes and ...


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