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State v. Petro

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICK PETRO, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Kevin A. Parker, District Associate Judge.

         A former husband convicted of domestic-abuse assault appeals the extension of the no-contact order protecting his former wife. AFFIRMED.

          Karmen R. Anderson of The Law Office of Karmen Anderson, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         At issue in this appeal is the district court's five-year extension of a criminal no-contact order under Iowa Code section 664A.8 (2016). Rick Petro contends the court should have found, based on his testimony, he no longer posed a threat to the safety of his former wife. Because substantial evidence in the record supports the district court's perception of a continuing threat, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In August 2009, Rick Petro physically assaulted his wife, Suella, in front of their children. The State charged him with domestic-abuse assault causing bodily injury, as well as first-degree harassment, based on his threat to kill Suella. Rick pleaded guilty to the assault charge, a serious misdemeanor, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.2(2). At the January 2010 sentencing hearing, the district court granted Rick a deferred judgment. The court also entered a one-year no-contact order, prohibiting Rick from interacting with Suella.

         In April 2010, Rick violated the terms of his probation by leveling threats against Suella; he told a social worker that "if his wife didn't 'keep her mouth shut [he was] going to take a fucking ball bat to her head.'" Rick stipulated to the probation violation, and the court revoked his deferred judgment, placing him on probation for one year.

         In January 2011, Suella applied for an extension of the no-contact order. The court granted the request on February 8, 2011, extending protection until February 8, 2016. But in April 2011, Rick again violated the no-contact order by directly addressing Suella in the courtroom during his termination-of-parental- rights hearing, saying, "I can't believe you're doing this." He stipulated to a probation violation and received a two-day jail term for contempt of court.

         On January 6, 2016, Suella filed an application for modifying a no-contact order, writing on the form she "would like the no-contact order extended for as long as possible." The district court granted the extension the same day and without a hearing. Several days later, Rick filed a motion to reconsider the extension and requested a hearing.

         The court held a hearing on April 22, 2016, where Rick was the only witness. He testified against extending the no-contact order because he and Suella both still lived in Carlisle and he was "afraid that if I even pass her on the street that she'll call and turn me in." Suella offered three exhibits: (1) a March 2011 letter from an Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) case worker concerning the traumatic impact of Rick's anger on his son, (2) a page from a DHS case plan showing Rick's psychological diagnoses, and (3) an October 2011 letter from Suella's counsel to Rick's counsel alleging Rick had violated the protective order by driving past her home and seeking to communicate with Suella through his parents. The court admitted those exhibits over Rick's objections. At the State's request, the court also took judicial notice of several juvenile court files involving the Petro children's dependency cases. Counsel for the State and Suella both argued for extension of the no-contact order, asserting Rick's past violations of the no-contact order are good predictors of his future performance.

         The district court approved the five-year extension, offering the ...


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