from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie Kunkle
Vaudt (pretrial orders) and Paul D. Scott (bench trial),
Melendez appeals his judgment and sentence for sexual abuse
in the second degree. AFFIRMED.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Richard J. Bennett, Special
Counsel, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Mahan, S.J.
State charged Carlos Melendez with sexual abuse in the second
degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1(1),
709.1(3), and 709.3 (2015), upon allegations Melendez
sexually abused his girlfriend's eleven-year-old daughter
on multiple occasions. Melendez pled not guilty, waived his
right to a jury trial, and stipulated to a bench trial on the
minutes of testimony. Following trial, the district court
found Melendez guilty as charged; the court's order
contained the following "findings of fact":
Between April of 2014 through April of 2015, the Defendant
was in Polk County, Iowa, engaged in sexual intercourse with
E.H., an eleven-year-old girl. The Court finds that the
Defendant engaged in sexual contact with the child by force
and against her will including sexual contact between the
Defendant's genitals and the child's genitals. THE
DEFENDANT IS FOUND GUILTY TO SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE SECOND
DEGREE IN VIOLATION OF IOWA CODE 709.1 & 709.3.
Melendez requested immediate sentencing, and the court
sentenced him to a prison term of up to twenty-five years.
appeals, claiming the district court's findings of fact
do not support his conviction. To preserve a challenge to the
sufficiency of the court's findings of fact, Melendez was
required to file a motion for a new trial seeking amendment
or enlargement of the court's findings and conclusions.
See State v. Miles, 346 N.W.2d 517, 519
(Iowa 1984). Melendez's failure to file such a motion
waives this claim on appeal. See id. Anticipating
our conclusion, Melendez asks us to overrule the supreme
court's holding in State v. Miles to the extent
it requires a motion for new trial as a precondition for
challenging the sufficiency of the court's findings of
fact. Because we are not free to ignore controlling supreme
court precedent, see State v. Beck, 854
N.W.2d 56, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 2014), we decline to entertain
alternatively contends his trial counsel was ineffective in
failing to file a motion for new trial challenging the
district court's findings of fact. We review
ineffective-assistance claims de novo. Dempsey v.
State, 860 N.W.2d 860, 868 (Iowa 2015). To succeed
on his claim, Melendez must show (1) the breach of an
essential duty and (2) prejudice. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). "If we
conclude a claimant has failed to establish either of these
elements, we need not address the remaining element."
Dempsey, 860 N.W.2d at 868. We ordinarily preserve
ineffective-assistance claims for possible
postconviction-relief proceedings, see State v.
Tompkins, 859 N.W.2d 631, 637 (Iowa 2015), but this
record is adequate to reach the merits of Melendez's
Melendez claims the court's findings of fact are
inadequate because they are "conclusory." In
addition to the court's written findings of fact set
forth above, the court also provided the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law on the record at the
stipulated bench trial:
I have reviewed the Minutes of Testimony, I have reviewed the
police reports that are attached thereto and the supplemental
notes that are inclusive of the Minutes of Testimony. And I
do find that the Minutes of Testimony support beyond a
reasonable-doubt finding that on-excuse me-that from on or
about April 2014 through April 2015 that you performed a sex
act with E.H., that being the penetration of the vagina by
your penis, that E.H. was under the age of 12, and that the
act was performed by force against her will, and that the act
did occur here in Polk County.
our review, we conclude the court's findings of fact were
sufficient to sustain Melendez's conviction for sexual
abuse in the second degree. See Iowa Code
§§ 709.1(1), 709.1(3), 709.3(1)(b) (setting forth
the elements required for a conviction of second-degree
sexual abuse); see also Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.17(2)
("In a case tried without a jury the court shall find
the facts specially and on the record, separately stating its
conclusions of law and rendering an appropriate
verdict."). Insofar as Melendez challenges the
court's findings of fact as failing to articulate
"specific intent and/or a domestic relationship, "
we find this claim unpersuasive where neither specific intent
nor a domestic relationship is an element of the crime at