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State v. Balderas

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MIREYA BIANCA BALDERAS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Mitchell E. Turner, Judge.

         A defendant appeals her sentence after pleading guilty to four crimes related to injuries suffered by her young son, who died after he was left in the care of her boyfriend. AFFIRMED.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         Mireya Balderas asks to be resentenced. She alleges the district court improperly considered unproven facts when imposing an indeterminate ten-year prison term and three concurrent indeterminate five-year prison terms following her guilty pleas to one count of neglect of a dependent person and three counts of child endangerment resulting in bodily injury. The State originally charged Balderas with child endangerment resulting in death in connection with fatal injuries suffered by her twenty-month-old son, M.B. She contends the district court's references to "unproven conduct and the death of her son" require us to vacate her sentences.

         Because mentioning M.B.'s death was not verboten and the district court expressly denied basing its chosen sentence on the greater offense dismissed by the State, we find vacation of her sentences is unwarranted.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Twenty-month-old M.B. was pronounced dead at the University Hospitals' Emergency Trauma Center on April 30, 2012, according to the minutes of evidence. The child had been in the care of Jorge Perez, who was the live-in boyfriend of M.B.'s mother, Mireya Balderas. Perez was watching M.B. while Balderas was attending an alternative high school, and he called 911 when the child stopped breathing.

         Investigators responding to the hospital documented bruising to the child's face, head, torso and buttocks, as well as a split upper lip and torn frenulum. An autopsy revealed the child's cause of death was blunt-force injuries to the head. The autopsy report documented numerous injuries of various ages, including (1) fractured ribs, (2) "extensive subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage (presence of blood on the surfaces of the brain)" and (3) contusions to the abdomen resulting in injuries to the liver and adrenal gland.

         The State filed a trial information in June 2012, charging both Perez and Balderas with child endangerment resulting in death, a class "B" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6(1) (2011). The information alleged Balderas had "permitted, condoned and participated in [M.B.'s] continuing physical abuse at the hands of Jorge Jesus Perez, which abuse resulted in [M.B.'s] death."

         In October 2015, the State filed an amended and substituted trial information, charging Balderas with neglect of a dependent person, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.3, and three counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury, class "D" felonies, in violation of Iowa Code sections 726.6(1)(a) and (e). The neglect count alleged Balderas

as the mother of a child, did knowingly or recklessly expose such child to a hazard or danger against which such child could not reasonably be expected to protect such child's self or deserted or abandoned such child, knowing or having reason to believe that the child would be exposed to such hazard or danger, to wit: defendant left her [twenty] month old son ...

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