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State v. Jean

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOSEPH JAMES JEAN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Madison County, Gregory A. Hulse, Judge.

         A defendant appeals the sentence imposed following his plea of guilty to incest. SENTENCE AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Patricia Reynolds, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         Joseph Jean appeals the sentence imposed following his guilty plea to incest. He claims the district court abused its discretion by ordering a prison term and by prohibiting his contact with minors. We conclude the court properly exercised its discretion in denying probation, but we remand for the court to strike language from the sentencing order that forbids Jean from having contact with persons under eighteen years of age.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         The State charged Jean, age fifty-two, with two counts-sexual abuse in the third degree, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4(1) (2016), and incest, a class "D" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.2. The minutes of evidence alleged Jean inserted his finger into the vagina of his twenty-one-year-old daughter, who had an intellectual disability.[1] Jean reached a plea agreement with the State and pleaded guilty to incest, admitting he committed a sex act with his daughter. In exchange, the State dismissed the other charge. The parties were free to argue for the appropriate sentence.

         At the sentencing hearing, the victim read a statement explaining the toll her father's crime had taken on her:

I have had many nights that I could not sleep. I have been emotionally affected by not trusting people like I used to. I have had a lot of people say that I have trusted in the past that I no longer am able to trust, including many of my friends. I have been more of a homebody.

         The prosecutor sought a five-year prison term and sex-offender treatment, arguing Jean did not understand that his actions "really impacted [his daughter], impacted [her] mom, [and] impacted his roommate who discovered it."

         By contrast, defense counsel urged the sentencing court to follow the recommendation of the presentence investigation (PSI) report for a suspended prison sentence and supervision within the community. Counsel emphasized that Jean had no prior criminal history and a solid employment record. Counsel also pointed to sex-offender assessments that rated Jean as a low risk to reoffend. Counsel stated Jean was willing to have "no contact with minors until approved by the program."[2] Jean then addressed the court and apologized for his actions.

         The district court noted "the victim in this case was seemingly not able to protect herself because of her own restrictions and disability." The court surmised Jean's behavior had "a substantial effect" upon her. The court rejected the PSI report's recommendation of probation, finding it would "unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense." The court also expressed concern that Jean could not concentrate on sex-offender treatment outside of prison because he was "struggling to find a place to live" and a "means to support himself." The court imposed a period of incarceration not to exceed five years and a ten-year special sentence under Iowa Code section 903B.2. In addition, the court issued an order of protection prohibiting Jean from having contact ...


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