from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, David P.
defendant appeals his convictions of sexual abuse in the
second degree and false imprisonment.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan P. Japuntich,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Tabor, J., and Blane, S.J.
Cornelius T. Brown appeals his convictions of Count I, sexual
abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code section
709.3(1) (2015), and Count II, false imprisonment, in
violation of Iowa Code section 710.7. Brown first contends
that the trial court failed to grant his motion for judgment
of acquittal as to Count I, asserting the State failed to
present sufficient evidence he used force creating a
substantial risk of death or serious injury, an element of
that crime. Second, Brown claims the trial court erred in
assessing financial obligations without making a
constitutionally mandated determination of his reasonable
ability to pay. Finally, Brown contends his trial counsel was
ineffective. Based upon our review, we find Brown's
contentions are without merit and affirm.
Factual and procedural background.
20, 2015, twenty-four-year-old N.H. got off work about 9:00
p.m. from Foot Locker in Waterloo, returned to her apartment,
and went to bed. Like the district court, we credit her
account of what followed. Around midnight, after falling
asleep, she awoke to knocking at her front door. When she
answered the door, N.H. found twenty-four-year-old Brown
standing there. N.H. had known Brown since ninth grade. They
attended Waterloo East High School together, and Brown is a
close friend of N.H.'s brother, Vincent. N.H.'s
parents knew Brown, and he was always welcomed at their home.
She characterized Brown as being a "good friend"
with whom she had neither been romantically involved nor had
a prior sexual relationship. N.H. had not been expecting
Brown that night and had not invited him to her residence.
asked to use N.H.'s bathroom. Although she thought the
request unusual, N.H. let Brown in. After using the restroom,
Brown sat down next to N.H. on her bed and started asking her
why she wouldn't be his girlfriend. N.H. reaffirmed that
she was not interested in him that way, at which Brown became
angry and started hitting her. Next, he took her cell phone
and would not give it back. Then Brown started punching N.H.
in the face with a closed fist while he pulled her hair. N.H.
noted Brown smelled of alcohol.
and Brown struggled, landing on the floor, where he placed an
arm around her throat and began choking and strangling her.
N.H. was able to get away to the bathroom, grabbed a bottle
of "Scrubbing Bubbles" bleach solution, and sprayed
Brown in the face and eyes, which made him angrier. Brown
shoved N.H. into the bathtub and started choking her again.
He eventually dragged her back to the bedroom, where he
punched her more. N.H. managed to briefly escape the
apartment, running across the hall to a neighbor's door
and knocking for help, but no one answered.
who is six feet tall and weighs 230 pounds, pulled N.H., who
stands four feet, eleven inches, back into the apartment by
her hair and into the bedroom, where he forced his mouth onto
her genitals. N.H. could feel the burn of the bleach she had
sprayed on Brown's face while his mouth touched her
vagina. She struggled and kicked his face, which again made
Brown angrier. He continued to punch her.
began banging on N.H.'s apartment door and demanded to
see N.H. Brown made N.H. walk to the door with him, and he
told the neighbors that everything was fine. Brown took N.H.
back to the bedroom and told her he would leave if she
"would just let him eat [her] pussy." The
escalating violence led N.H. to think that she "was
gonna die, " and she pled with Brown to give back her
cell phone so she could talk to her son one last time. When
Brown gave her the phone, N.H. "bolted" from the
apartment, ran to a neighbor's apartment, and called her
parents. A few minutes later, N.H. saw her father's truck
and a Waterloo police car pull up to the apartment building.
N.H. ran outside to them, screaming and crying.
went looking for Brown and found he had locked himself inside
N.H.'s apartment. Police forced open the door and
eventually found Brown hiding inside a closet. Brown admitted
to police that he had punched N.H. in the face and head with
his closed fist. He also said that he knew that he hurt N.H.
"very bad" and saw her crying and bleeding. Brown
also admitted that N.H. "was scared" and "knew
she was in fear for her life" and "thought she was
trial, N.H. testified that while Brown was choking her, she
had clenched her teeth to be able to breathe. Also, the
second time Brown choked her, she described "it felt
like somebody was trying to rip the life out of my
throat." N.H. recounted her injuries: bruising; two
black eyes; lots of scratches on her hands, face, mouth, and
throat; "knots" on her face; and a stiff neck. N.H.
could not eat for days "because [her] jaw was
locked" and wouldn't open due to injuries suffered
during the attack. N.H.'s parents also reported that some
of her hair was missing, presumably ripped out by Brown
during the attack.
was charged by trial information on June 29, 2015, with the
offenses of Count I, sexual abuse in the second degree, in
violation of Iowa Code section 709.3(1), and Count II, false
imprisonment, in violation of Iowa Code section 710.7. On
December 14, 2015, Brown filed a waiver of jury trial. The
matter proceeded to a bench trial on December 14, 2015. At
the close of the State's case-in-chief, Brown moved for a
judgment of acquittal. He argued that he was entitled to a
directed verdict on the sexual-abuse-in-the-second-degree
charge as the State had failed to present sufficient evidence
that he used or threatened to use force creating a
substantial risk of death or serious injury to N.H. The trial
court denied the motion.
December 18, 2015, the district court filed its findings of
fact and conclusions of law, finding Brown guilty of
second-degree sexual abuse and false imprisonment. On January
25, 2016, Brown filed motions for new trial and in arrest of
judgment. The district court heard the motions on May 2,
2016. On May 17, 2016, the court denied the post-trial
motions. On June 27, 2016, Brown was sentenced to serve
twenty-five years on Count I, sexual abuse in the second
degree, and one year on Count II, false imprisonment. At
sentencing, the district court found Brown reasonably able to
pay and ordered restitution, including a $315.00 fine and 35%
surcharge on Count II, a $250 penalty pursuant to Iowa Code