Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Lyon County, David A. Lester, Judge.
Arend Deboer appeals his convictions for threat of terrorism and harassment in the second degree as a habitual offender.
Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, David Arthur Adams and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defenders, and Jessica Zachary, Student Legal Intern, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas Henry Miller, Assistant Attorney General, and Carl J. Petersen, County Attorney, for appellee.
Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Bower, J., and Huitink, S.J. [*]
Arend Deboer appeals his convictions for threat of terrorism and harassment in the second degree as a habitual offender. He contends the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. We reverse in part, conditionally affirm in part, vacate the court's ruling on the motion for new trial, and remand with directions.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
On September 7, 2011, Arend Deboer called the Rock Rapids branch of the Farm Service Agency at 10:00 a.m. His call was transferred to Carol Groen, the FSA county executive director. Deboer wanted to know details about the FSA's disaster relief programs with regard to land he farmed. As Groen explained the disaster relief protocol, Deboer became "very frustrated" and hung up.
Groen and Deboer had grown up in the same neighborhood in Little Rock, Iowa. As a farmer, Deboer "came in [to the FSA] to do business once in awhile." Groen recalled Deboer was usually "fine, " although sometimes "[h]e may have gotten upset with government regulations or so forth, but many people do." And although Deboer had gotten frustrated in the past, he had not gotten "to the point that he would quit listening and just hang up."
Later that day, at 4:20 p.m., Deboer called the FSA again and was again transferred to Groen. This time Deboer had questions about the ownership of a particular property his ex-wife had received following the recent dissolution of their marriage. Deboer's demeanor and voice "was much different than the first conversation, " and he had "a very, very high level of anger." Deboer told Groen if he did not get his land back "he would blow the court and [Groen] away." As Deboer further stated, "I don't care if I have to sit in jail, you and the court will give my land back, " and then he hung up. Groen recalled Deboer said it "very angrily" and that she "had no doubt in [her] mind" he meant what he said.
Groen made notes about the conversations she had with Deboer that day, as she was trained to do. Groen did not have an immediate concern about her staff because the office closes at 4:30 p.m. and "[t]hey were on their way out the door for the day at this time." Per "FSA procedure, " Groen called her supervisor regarding the statements made by Deboer. Groen's supervisor stated he would contact the office of inspector general (OIG) the next morning so the OIG could "look into it" to "determine is this a valid threat or not." The supervisor also directed Groen to report the statements to the sheriffs office.
Sometime "[a]fter 5:00 p.m." Groen went to the Lyon County sheriffs office to make a report. No officers were present, but at approximately 6:30 p.m., an officer called Groen's cell phone to take her report. Groen was "adamant" the officer not talk to Deboer until the OIG completed its investigation and told the officer she "just wanted [the police] to know what happened in case there were any future problems." At her home that evening, Groen took "special precaution" to lock her door and let her dogs out.
The next morning, September 8, Groen's supervisor contacted her and they "reviewed the threat [she] had received from [Deboer] the day before." The supervisor then contacted the OIG "and put in a full report, which is the procedure at FSA." The OIG initiated an investigation and that day a special agent went to Deboer's residence "in attempt to interview him about the phone call, " but Deboer "was ...