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State v. Mitrisin

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL MITRISIN, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

Michael Mitrisin appeals from his convictions of arson and burglary, contending there is insufficient evidence he was the perpetrator of the offenses.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas S. Tauber, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Kimberly Shepherd and Will Ripley, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

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

POTTERFIELD, P.J.

Michael Mitrisin appeals from his convictions of arson and burglary, contending there is insufficient evidence he was the perpetrator of the offenses. He also asserts his trial counsel was ineffective in various respects. Because substantial evidence supports the convictions, we affirm. We preserve one ineffectiveness claim for possible postconviction proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On February 5, 2011, a window on the security door to R.S.'s condominium building was broken out. In R.S.'s condominium, which showed no signs of forced entry, two fires had been set. One fire was set at the base of her bed. Another fire burned R.S.'s favorite rug in the living room. Investigators estimated the fires had been set sometime between 8 or 9 p.m. that evening.

At about 9 p.m. on February 5, R.S. entered a bar with friends to listen to a band. Mitrisin was there at the bar, but was asked to leave because he was following R.S., staring at her, and acting "creepy." After he was asked to leave the bar, Mitrisin approached R.S., brushed aside one of her friends, and whispered to R.S., "I'll see you later, sweetheart."

Mitrisin and R.S. had been in a romantic relationship for more than a year, but the relationship ended in January 2011. Mitrisin had had keys to the condominium before the breakup: the key to the exterior security door indicated it was not to be duplicated; the key to the apartment door was not similarly marked. After their breakup, R.S. and Mitrisin continued to have communication through texts and emails, and met in person a few times. R.S. was concerned about Mitrisin's well-being after reading some of his communications and contacted his mother to check on him. Ultimately, R.S. contacted the police and cut off communication with Mitrisin, including blocking his phone numbers and his access to her Facebook accounts. Nonetheless, she received two voicemails from Mitrisin using numbers different than his usual phone number.

In order to communicate with R.S., Mitrisin created a bogus Facebook account using the name Amir Petrosian. He used an Armenian-sounding name to get R.S.'s interest, as she had lived in Turkey for a time. R.S. communicated with Petrosian through Facebook, and it was through Petrosian's access to one of her Facebook pages that Mitrisin learned R.S. was planning to attend a concert at the bar, Mound Street Landing, on February 5, 2011.

Lieutenant Fire Marshall Jim Morris interviewed Mitrisin on February 7, 2011. Mitrisin said he had recently broken up with R.S. after dating her for a year and that he saw her on February 5 when he left a magazine belonging to her on her car windshield. Mitrisin admitted being at Mound Street Landing to meet friends on the night of February 5, speaking to R.S., and acting a little "creepy." He said after he left the bar he went back to his parents' house where he had been staying since a recent suicide attempt and spoke to his mother for a bit. Morris told the jury that he felt Mitrisin was trying to hide his right hand behind his head or in his pocket during their conversation. Later that night, a sheriff's deputy who served legal papers on Mitrisin stated he saw a white bandage on Mitrisin's right hand.

Mitrisin moved in with his parents after the breakup of his relationship with R.S. After the fires, police searched Mitrisin's parents' home and on their computer found a letter Mitrisin had delivered to R.S.; numerous searches for picking locks and creating bombs; a link to an arson "cookbook"; videos on how to hack into a Facebook account; entries related to the creation of the Petrosian ...


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