Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Colleen D. Weiland, Judge.
A defendant appeals his conviction for carrying weapons.
Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Patricia Reynolds, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Martha Trout, Assistant Attorney General, Carlyle D. Dalen, County Attorney, and William Hoekstra, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
Oklahoma resident Ramond Thompson appeals his Iowa conviction for carrying weapons. He argues the prosecution failed to offer evidence he constructively possessed the loaded handgun that police found stowed in the passenger door of a stolen pickup truck occupied by two of Thompson's friends.
Thompson was not in the pickup when police found the gun, but he told another friend that the gun was in the truck's door and told police he sat next to the door during the trip to Iowa. The question on appeal is whether knowledge of the gun's presence and recent proximity to the location where it was found are sufficient to prove he "knowingly carrie[d] or transport[ed] in a vehicle a pistol or revolver" in violation of Iowa Code section 724.4(1) (2011). Because knowingly carrying or transporting denotes actual or constructive possession, and the State offered no proof Thompson had the authority or right to maintain control over the gun, we find the State's evidence of Thompson's guilt insufficient.
I. Factual Background and Prior Proceedings
Thompson traveled to Clear Lake, Iowa with three acquaintances: his friend DeMarco Gardner, Gardner's girlfriend Krista Pendleton, and Krista's friend Katie Mongan. Mongan lived with her mother in Florida but arranged to return to Iowa, where her father lived, to serve a two-day jail sentence for operating while intoxicated.
Driving Pendleton's car from Florida, the young women picked up Gardner and Thompson in Oklahoma and continued north to Iowa. The foursome arrived in Clear Lake on August 20, 2012. They checked into the Best Western Holiday Lodge, where they had a discounted room thanks to Mongan's stepmother who worked there. At 5 p.m., Mongan turned herself in at the jail while the others napped.
But when Mongan was released from jail at 8 a.m. on August 22, 2012, her friends were nowhere to be found. Their cell phones went to voicemail when she tried to call them. Just after Mongan called her dad to pick her up, another friend came by and said Pendleton and the others were stranded in Kansas City. Mongan found some of her belongings left behind in the motel room but realized her purse was in Pendleton's car. Because Mongan was "freaking out, " she called her dad and he picked her up for breakfast. Just as they were pulling out, Gardner pulled up in front of the motel in a pickup truck; Pendleton was in the passenger seat.
Mongan asked her father to turn his vehicle around. Mongan then approached the truck and confronted Pendleton and Gardner about abandoning her. During their explanation, they told her the pickup was stolen. When her father heard that information, he called the police. Meanwhile, Thompson came walking towards Mongan from the front of the motel. As the police arrived and started looking at the truck, Thompson disclosed to Mongan that there was a gun in the door.
The officers eventually determined the truck's owner in Missouri had reported it missing. During a search of the stolen truck, the police found a handgun in the map pocket of the passenger door. When checking to see if it was in ...