from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Joel A.
defendant appeals his convictions for assault of a peace
officer, possession of a controlled substance with intent to
deliver, and operating while intoxicated.
Benjamin D. Bergmann of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble
Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
Church appeals his convictions for assault of a peace
officer, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.3A(4) (2013);
possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver,
in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(d); and
operating while intoxicated, in violation of Iowa Code
section 321J.21. Specifically, Church claims the district
court erred in excluding evidence he sought to admit
regarding the officer's prior conduct, allowing testimony
which referenced evidence he claims was inadmissible hearsay,
and denying his motion to sever the charges.
Background Facts and Proceedings
the early morning hours of December 25, 2013, a Cedar Falls
police officer was patrolling in his vehicle when he saw a
car stopped in the street. The car's lights were on; the
engine was running, and the officer noticed one occupant
pulling up next to the car, the officer observed a male
slumped forward in the driver's seat who did not react to
the officer's presence or the officer's flashing his
flashlight on the occupant. The officer then positioned his
vehicle behind the car. The officer approached the car on
foot and noticed the occupant was still slumped forward. As
the driver's side door was unlocked, the officer opened
the door. The officer testified that he immediately smelled a
strong odor of alcohol, as well as burnt marijuana. The
occupant of the vehicle began to stir and reach for the
ignition. The officer then reached in the car and removed the
occupant then sat back, and the officer noticed the occupant
had bloodshot, watery eyes and his face was flush. As the
officer believed he was observing signs of intoxication, he
radioed police dispatch and requested another officer be sent
to the scene. After asking the occupant to step out of the
car, the officer requested identification, which the occupant
provided. The officer identified the man as Church. Because
he believed Church may be intoxicated, the officer walked
Church back to the squad car.
reaching the squad car, the officer opened the rear,
passenger-side door and told Church to have a seat in the
car. Rather than doing so, Church struck the officer in the
head with his fist, knocking the officer to his knees. From
that position, the officer grabbed Church around the legs;
Church struck the officer several more times. The officer
struggled to get to his feet and attempted to radio for help.
As he was hunched over and still trying to deflect blows from
Church, the officer felt Church pulling on the officer's
gun. Church knocked the officer on his back, and the officer
said, "Stop, or I will shoot you." Church continued
to strike the officer; the officer then shot Church once in
the torso. Initially, Church was knocked back by the shot,
but then he started moving towards the officer again. The
officer then shot Church two more times. Church backed up and
ran to his vehicle. About that time, several other officers
arrived and detained Church. The officers found marijuana, a
scale, plastic bags, and money in the car. A blood test taken
several hours later revealed THC and alcohol in Church's
February 5, 2014, the State charged Church with assault of a
peace officer with intent to inflict serious injury,
possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver,
and operating while intoxicated. Prior to trial, Church filed
a motion to sever the assault-of-a-peace-officer count from
the other two counts, claiming the allegations were not part
of the same transaction or a common scheme and good cause
existed to sever the charges. The district court disagreed
and denied the motion.
trial, the State sought to admit testimony that referenced
the existence of text messages from Church's phone
suggesting Church was involved in purchasing and selling
marijuana. Church objected to the testimony on hearsay
grounds; the State argued the text messages-which themselves
were not offered into evidence-were not hearsay. Further, the
State argued that Church had opened the door to the
introduction of the testimony while cross-examining a police
investigator about the lack of evidence of records or ledgers
tracking drug-distribution activity. The court overruled the
objection and allowed the State to admit the testimony.
Church attempted to introduce evidence of other incidences
involving this officer, suggesting he had previously been
accused of using excessive force. The State objected on
relevance grounds. The district court excluded the evidence,
concluding it was irrelevant and even if it was relevant, its
probative value was substantially outweighed by the unfairly
prejudicial nature of the evidence.
6, 2015, the jury found Church guilty of the lesser-included
offense of assault on a peace officer, as well as guilty of
possession with intent to deliver and operating while
intoxicated. Church appeals.
Scope and Standard of Review
we review evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion.
State v. Tyler, 867 N.W.2d 136, 152 (Iowa 2015).
"An abuse of discretion occurs 'when the district
court exercises its discretion on grounds or for reasons
clearly untenable or to an extent clearly
unreasonable.'" State v. Miller, 841 N.W.2d
583, 586 (Iowa 2014) (quoting Rowedder v. Anderson,
814 N.W.2d 585, 589 (Iowa 2012)). "A ground or reason is
untenable when it is not supported by substantial evidence or
when it is based on an erroneous application of the
law." Graber v. City of Ankeny, 616 N.W.2d 633,
638 (Iowa 2000).
evidentiary ruling admitting evidence challenged as hearsay
is appealed, our review is for correction of errors at
law. See State v. Buenaventura, 660 N.W.2d
38, 50 (Iowa 2003).
review rulings on a motion to sever charges for abuse of
discretion. State v. Geier, 484 N.W.2d 167, 172
(Iowa 1992). "To prove the district court abused its
discretion in refusing to sever charges, [the defendant]
bears the burden of showing prejudice resulting from joinder
outweighed the State's ...