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State v. Conard

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 12, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RYAN CAINE CONARD, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A. Romano, Judge.

Ryan Conard appeals from his convictions for theft in the second degree, forgery, identity theft, and driving while license was denied or revoked.

Thomas A. Hurd, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Jim Ward, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

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

DANILSON, J.

Ryan Conard appeals from his convictions for theft in the second degree, forgery, identity theft, and driving while license was denied or revoked. On appeal, he maintains that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. He asks that we reverse his convictions and remand to the district court. We conclude Conard's counsel did not provide ineffective assistance at trial, and we affirm.

I. Background Facts.

In January 2012, Conard was charged with driving while his license was barred or revoked. Later the same month the State charged Conard with second-degree theft for stealing a vehicle, a "D" felony, for a separate incident. On March 1, Conard received a plea offer from the State, which encompassed both charges, and stated he would consider it. On March 22, 2012, the State filed an amended trial information, which added a habitual offender sentencing enhancement to the second-degree theft charge. The next day the State filed forgery and identity theft charges against Conard for a third incident. The same day, Conard agreed to enter an Alford plea[1] to the second-degree theft charge and to plead guilty to each of the other three offenses he was charged with. As part of the agreement, the State consented to dismiss the habitual-offender enhancement. At the sentencing hearing on May 9, 2012, Conard requested the court grant his motion in arrest of judgment. He maintained that the addition of the habitual-offender sentencing enhancement scared him into pleading guilty and that he felt "forced into it" since the amendment happened after depositions had been taken. The court rejected Conard's request to withdraw his plea, noting he was no stranger to the system and had "sufficient time and discussion that day of the plea and . . . clearly expressed a complete understanding of what his options were." The court then sentenced Conard. He appeals.

II. Standard of Review.

A defendant may raise an ineffective-assistance claim on direct appeal if he has reasonable grounds to believe the record is adequate for us to address the claim on direct appeal. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006). If we determine the record is adequate, we may decide the claim. Id. We review claims for ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. Id.

III. Discussion.

Conard asserts that counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the State's amendment of the trial information three days prior to trial. He contends that, had counsel objected to the amendment, the district court would have prevented the sentencing enhancement from being added. He further contends that it was the impermissible enhancement that induced him to plead guilty. The State acknowledges that the record on appeal is adequate to address Conard's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We agree.

To succeed on his claim, Conard must show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) his counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted. State v. Rodriguez, 804 N.W.2d 844, 848 (Iowa 2011). To prove that counsel failed to perform an essential duty, Conard must show "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness . . . under prevailing professional norms." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984). In doing so, he must overcome "a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 689. Because he pled guilty, in order to show that prejudice resulted, Conard must prove that but for counsel's breach of duty, he would have elected to stand trial rather than accept the plea agreement. See State v. Carroll, 76 ...


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