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State v. Metzger

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHN DALE METZGER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Palo Alto County, Don E. Courtney, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for going armed with intent.

          Jack B. Bjornstad of Jack Bjornstad Law Office, Okoboji, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., Mullins, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          TABOR, Presiding Judge.

         The question in this appeal is whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that John Metzger drove with his rifle to a farm field where he shot at a crop-dusting plane-committing the crime of going armed with intent. Because the trial record contains substantial circumstantial evidence to support Metzger's conviction, we decline to disturb the jury's verdict.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         For at least twelve years, Metzger felt harassed by planes from Steier Ag Aviation Service flying so low over his farm that they would "shake the house." Around 2005 or 2006, Metzger telephoned Elmer Steier, the company's founder, to complain a crop-duster had flown too close to Metzger's buildings. Steier recalled Metzger saying "he was so upset that if an airplane flew close to his building site, he would shoot them down." Steier took Metzger's threat seriously and told his pilots to steer clear of Metzger's property.[1]

         But Metzger's aggravation returned bright and early on July 31, 2015. He awoke at 6:40 that morning when his "house start[ed] shaking." He ran out his front door while still wearing his bed clothes, looked up, and "saw the plane." He recalls leaving his house at 7:10 a.m. and driving to the Steier's airfield.[2]Metzger testified he was "hoping to see what plane it was and write down the numbers" but he "couldn't make out the numbers" because he "was too far away" and "didn't have binoculars." Metzger testified he was "thinking of calling" the Federal Aviation Administration.

         Meanwhile, pilot Derrick Frideres started his shift at Steier Ag Aviation just before 7:00 that morning. His job was to apply insecticide to kill aphids in customers' fields by flying a yellow and white Cessna Model 188 aerial spray plane. When spraying, the Cessna would fly roughly twenty feet off the ground at 110 miles per hour. Just before 8:30 a.m., Frideres saw a "pewter or tan car sitting at the intersection by the east end of the runway." The pilot thought it was "odd" to see the car parked in that location. Frideres testified:

[O]nce I had seen the car, I had made loops around it which is something we do because we really don't want a car to be around when we're spraying . . . so I circled around to let him know I was there, hoping maybe he would just drive off.

         The pilot saw the driver looking up through the windshield before the car finally moved about one-quarter mile, pulling into a "field drive." At that point, Frideres returned to his work and lost sight of car. A few minutes later, Frideres was "coming up over the trees" at the end of the field when he heard a loud "metallic pop." The pilot thought something hit the plane. After hearing the popping noise, Frideres saw the tan car driving down the road. He then finished spraying the field and landed the Cessna.

         After landing at Steier's airfield, Frideres met with the company's current owner, Dennis Meyer. The pilot said: "Denny, I think somebody shot my plane." Meyer and Frideres located a hole in the right wing flap. Meyer testified the damage was "awfully close to the fuel cell on the airplane and ...


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