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State v. Clark

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
RICHARD DOUGLAS CLARK, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, James C. Ellefson (guilty plea), Timothy J. Finn (motion in arrest of judgment hearing), Judges.

The defendant challenges his conviction, alleging his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary, his counsel was ineffective, and the plea agreement was substantially frustrated.

Ryan L. Haaland, Nevada, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, Stephen Holmes, County Attorney, and Bryan J. Barker, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Tabor, J., and Sackett, S.J. [*]


"Ten years is better than seventy-five years." That is what Richard Clark recalled his defense attorneys repeatedly telling him before he accepted a plea offer by the State. The plea agreement reduced his charge from a class "B" to a class "C" felony for manufacturing methamphetamine and included other charging and sentencing concessions by the prosecution.

Now Clark is challenging the knowing and voluntary nature of his guilty plea to the class "C" felony and its ten-year sentence. He contends the district court improperly suggested the twenty-five year sentence under the original charge could have been tripled pursuant to Iowa Code section 124.411 (2011) when the State did not plead that enhancement. He also asserts his attorney was ineffective in failing to correct the plea-taking court regarding the maximum sentence and in declining to file a motion to suppress evidence discovered during a traffic stop. Finally, he argues he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to a separate operating-while-intoxicated (OWI) offense because the purpose of the overall plea agreement has been frustrated.

Because Clark acknowledges the State could have amended the trial information to allege the section 124.411 enhancement and because the district court complied with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)(b), we conclude Clark's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary. We preserve his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel concerning the motion to suppress for possible postconviction relief proceedings. Because we do not reverse his manufacturing conviction, we do not need to address the OWI plea.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

The following facts appeared in the minutes of evidence. On June 10, 2012, Story County Sheriff Deputies Brian Tickle and Aaron Kester stopped a car driven by Richard Clark. The deputies recognized Clark's passenger, William Farrand, as having a warrant out for his arrest. During the stop, Christine Cornwell, another passenger in the car, admitted to the deputies she had an open container of alcohol. Eventually, the deputies asked for Clark's permission to search the vehicle. Clark consented. The deputies found portable methamphetamine labs in the back seat and arrested Clark.

The State filed a trial information on June 20, 2012, charging Clark with manufacturing not more than five grams of methamphetamine, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 124.401(1)(c)(6) and 124.413. While out on bond, Clark was arrested for OWI, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2.[1] On August 16, 2012, the State amended the drug charge to a class "B" felony, in violation of sections 124.401(b)(7) and 124.413.

Clark reached a plea agreement with the State. At a plea hearing on August 21, 2012, the prosecutor recited the terms of the agreement. In exchange for Clark's guilty plea, the State reduced the charge from a class "B" to a class "C" felony, agreed not to seek the habitual offender enhancement, agreed to recommend waiver of a mandatory minimum one-third sentence, dismissed one OWI charge and agreed to recommend another OWI sentence would run concurrently with the drug sentence, and agreed not to seek prosecution in "seven more methamphetamine lab cases."

During the colloquy the district court asked Clark if he understood he was "cutting [his] risk" from twenty-five years to a maximum of ten years in prison by accepting the plea deal. Defense counsel Katherine Flickinger added that Clark "might have been subject to tripling as well." The court told Clark, "in other words, the court would have discretion to not just leave it at a maximum of 25 years but could impose some kind of multiple, and the maximum of that can be a maximum of 75 years if you were convicted of the Class B." ...

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