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State v. Thacker

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 17, 2015

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
TINA LYNN THACKER, Appellant

On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, James D. Birkenholz, District Associate Judge. The defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision affirming her conviction and sentence of second-degree harassment following a guilty plea.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Kevin J. Bell, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice. All justices concur except Mansfield, J., Cady, C.J., and Waterman, J., who dissent.

OPINION

Page 403

APPEL, Justice.

In this case, we must decide two questions related to the sentencing of the defendant. The first question is whether the district court complied with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.23(3)( d )

Page 404

in sentencing the defendant after she pled guilty pursuant to a plea bargain when the sentencing order does not contain the provisions of the plea bargain. The second question is whether the district court improperly accepted the guilty plea without first determining that the defendant's plea was made voluntarily and intelligently and had a factual basis as required by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)( b ). For the reasons expressed below, we conclude the district court's sentencing order does not comply with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.23(3)( d ), and as a result, we vacate the sentence and remand the matter to the district court for resentencing. With respect to the defendant's claim that her plea was not voluntary, we conclude the issue cannot be resolved in this direct appeal and therefore reserve this claim for a postconviction-relief action.

I. Factual and Procedural Background.

The minutes of testimony in this case state that on October 4, 2013, a supervisor at the Des Moines Area Regional Transit facility notified police regarding a customer, Tina Thacker, who was screaming profanities at customer service. As the supervisor tried to calm her down, Thacker saw a bus driver, Donald Robuck, which caused her to renew her screaming. Among other things, she screamed she was going to find out where Robuck lived. The minutes state Robuck had been the driver of a bus boarded by Thacker. When Thacker asked Robuck to turn on the air conditioner, the system blew out hot air. Thacker then became incensed, used obscenities, and threatened to kill Robuck.

Thacker was charged by trial information with harassment in the first degree, an aggravated misdemeanor, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.7(2) (2013). The charge was apparently resolved by a plea agreement.

The plea agreement, however, is not part of the record. What is part of the record is a form entitled " Petition to Plead Guilty to Serious Misdemeanor." The form contains an entry stating " the plea agreement is:" but nothing was entered on the lines provided. The terms of the plea agreement were left blank. There is nothing in the record to indicate whether this was an intentional or unintentional omission. The defendant waived her right to have the proceedings recorded.

On the same day the Petition to Plead Guilty to Serious Misdemeanor was filed, the district court, also using a form, accepted the plea agreement and imposed a sentence. The form contained the following boilerplate language: " The following sentence is based on all of the available SENTENCING CONSIDERATIONS set out in Iowa Code Section 907.5." The district court checked the box " The Plea Agreement" as being the factor that was " the most significant in determining [the] particular sentence."

The district court ordered Thacker to serve one year in jail but suspended the sentence. The district court placed Thacker on probation for a period of one year with the Iowa Department of Correctional Services. The district court imposed conditions of probation which required Thacker to (1) complete any recommended substance abuse treatment, (2) cooperate and complete a VORP (Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program) session with each victim who so desires, (3) complete an assaultive behavior class, (4) participate in substance abuse monitoring by urine analysis during the term of probation, and (5) complete a psychological evaluation and follow through with any recommended treatment. The district court further dismissed a related simple misdemeanor charge and ordered

Page 405

Thacker not to have contact with the victim for a period of five years. Additionally, the district court ordered Thacker to pay a fine of $315, the statutory surcharges, restitution, court costs, and attorney fees. Thacker appealed. We transferred the case to the court of appeals.

On appeal, Thacker raised two issues. First, she claimed the district court erred by not stating adequate reasons on the record for the exercise of the district court's sentencing discretion as required by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.23(3)( d ). Second, she claimed she received ineffective assistance of counsel because she did not knowingly and voluntarily enter into her plea agreement.

A divided court of appeals rejected Thacker's arguments. With respect to the claim that the district court failed to give adequate reasons for her sentence, the court of appeals held that the district court was merely giving effect to the parties' agreement and that no further statement of reasons was required. On the question of whether she received ineffective assistance of counsel because she did not intelligently and voluntarily enter into the plea agreement, the court of appeals held that Thacker failed to show prejudice. A dissent asserted the district court abused its discretion in citing a plea agreement as its reason for the sentence, when no plea agreement was apparent in the record. The dissent further took the position that the record was inadequate to resolve the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim.

We granted further review. For the reasons expressed below, we now vacate Thacker's sentence and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings. We also conclude the record is inadequate to resolve the ineffective-assistance claim on direct appeal and reserve that claim for a postconviction-relief action.

II. Standard of Review.

A. Review of District Court Sentencing Order.

When " the sentence imposed is within the statutory maximum, we will only interfere if an abuse of discretion is shown." State v. Luedtke, 279 N.W.2d 7, 8 (Iowa 1979). In exercising discretion, the district court must " weigh all pertinent matters in determining a proper sentence, including the nature of the offense, the attending circumstances, the defendant's age, character, and propensities or chances for reform." State v. Johnson, 476 N.W.2d 330, 335 (Iowa 1991). Errors in sentencing, including contentions the trial court failed to articulate adequate reasons for a particular sentence, " may be challenged on direct appeal even in the absence of an objection in the district court." State v. Lathrop, 781 N.W.2d 288, 292--93 (Iowa 2010).

B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

" We review ineffective assistance of counsel claims de novo." State v. Williams, 574 N.W.2d 293, 300 (Iowa 1998). When a defendant seeks to have an ineffective-assistance claim resolved on direct appeal, the defendant must establish that the record is adequate to allow the appellate court to determine the issue. See State v. Johnson, 784 N.W.2d 192, 198 (Iowa 2010). If the record is ...


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