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State v. Nickerson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHAWN KALE NICKERSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John M. Wright, Judge.

         A defendant appeals the sentences imposed following his pleas of guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of methamphetamine.

          Ryan J. Mitchell of Orsborn, Milani, Mitchell & Goedken, L.L.P., Ottumwa, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         Shawn Nickerson appeals the sentences imposed following his guilty pleas to possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of methamphetamine. He contends the district court abused its discretion by failing to give reasons for rejecting probation or for ordering his prison sentences to run consecutively. We find the district court provided ample rationale for imposing incarceration, but because the district court failed to offer any reasons for consecutive sentences, we vacate that portion of the order and remand for a new sentencing hearing.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         On July 22, 2015, the State charged Nickerson with two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, a class "D" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 724.26(1) (2015), and one count of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), third offense, a class "D" felony, in violation of section 124.401(5). At a pretrial conference on October 6, the parties reached a plea agreement. The State agreed to dismiss one of the firearm-possession counts, and Nickerson agreed to plead guilty to the other firearm-possession count and an amended count of possession of a controlled substance, second offense, an aggravated misdemeanor. The parties acknowledged sentencing would be "open, " but they agreed the State would recommend concurrent terms of incarceration and Nickerson would ask for probation at the sentencing hearing.

         At the November 23, 2015 sentencing hearing, the State, consistent with the plea agreement, asked the court to order incarceration with the two sentences to run concurrently. Nickerson, through counsel, requested the court suspend his sentences and order him to be placed at a residential correctional facility as part of his probation. Nickerson also addressed the court personally. He expressed remorse but also attributed his criminal behavior to his desire to "help"-Nickerson claimed he had been planning to sell guns and other items to get money for his family-and to cope with a medical condition as he felt using methamphetamine helped alleviate his symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

         Following Nickerson's statement, the district court imposed a period of incarceration not to exceed five years on the firearm-possession count and a period of incarceration not to exceed two years on the controlled-substance count, to be served consecutively. Nickerson appeals his sentences.

         II. Standard and Scope of Review

         We review a district court's sentencing decision for an abuse of discretion. See State v. Hill, 878 N.W.2d 269, 272 (Iowa 2016). "A district court abuses its discretion when it exercises its discretion on grounds clearly untenable or to an extent clearly unreasonable." Id. We consider a district court's reasoning "untenable when it is not supported by substantial evidence or when it is based on an erroneous application of the law." See id.

         III. ...


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