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State v. Bell

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LARRY DEAN BELL SR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Henry W. Latham II (plea) and Mark R. Lawson (motion in arrest of judgment), Judges.

         The defendant appeals from the district court's denial of his motion in arrest of judgment following his guilty plea to one count of failure to comply with sex offender registry requirements, second offense, as an habitual offender.

          Lauren M. Phelps, Davenport, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         Larry Bell Sr. appeals from the district court's denial of his motion in arrest of judgment following his guilty plea to one count of failure to comply with sex offender registry requirements, second offense, as an habitual offender. Bell maintains his trial counsel coerced him into pleading guilty; he argues the record makes it clear his plea was not voluntary and, thus, the court abused its discretion in denying his motion in arrest of judgment.[1]

         "We review a trial court's decision to grant or deny a request to withdraw a guilty plea for abuse of discretion." State v. Speed, 573 N.W.2d 594, 596 (Iowa 1998). "The refusal to allow withdrawal will be upheld 'where "a defendant, with full knowledge of the charge against him and of his rights and the consequences of a plea of guilty, enters such a plea understandably and without fear of persuasion."'" Id. (citations omitted).

         At the hearing on the motion in arrest of judgment, Bell told the court he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because:

I was forced into that. I was actually threatened by my previous attorney. Put his finger in my face and yelled at me.
And at the beginning, in front of another judge-I don't know his name-judge stopped the case because I was advised to plead guilty to anything the judge said I was supposed to agree with it. And after three or four I disagreed and the judge said he couldn't sentence me like this so we took a break.
And during the break, the recess, my attorney got in my face and threatening and telling me-and told me trust him. That I would go home today. And he lied to me said you will go home today with unsupervised probation. Just go along with anything the judge says.

         The State responded that the transcript from the plea proceeding indicates Bell was asked by the court, "Other than this plea agreement, have there been any promises made or is anyone forcing you or threatening you to make you come forward to enter this guilty plea?" and Bell had responded, "No, sir."

         The court then reviewed the transcript from the plea proceedings before issuing a verbal ruling denying Bell's motion in arrest of judgment. In doing so, the court noted there was no break in the plea proceedings-in marked contrast to Bell's claim. Additionally, the plea-proceeding court had advised Bell he could stop the plea proceedings at any time, which Bell had not ...


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