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Aguilar-Garcia v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 6, 2017

JUAN AGUILAR-GARCIA, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

         An inmate appeals the court's denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Andrew J. Smith of Mack, Hansen, Gadd, Armstrong & Brown P.C., Storm Lake, for appellant.

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

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         Juan Aguilar-Garcia appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief, asserting two deficiencies in the representation he received from his attorney. Aguilar-Garcia argues (1) counsel did not sufficiently investigate his defense or prepare for a possible trial and (2) counsel misadvised him concerning the immigration consequences of his plea. Because Aguilar-Garcia fails to establish the performance of his counsel fell below professional norms, we affirm the court's denial of relief.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         The State charged Aguilar-Garcia with four counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, class "B" felonies, for allegedly performing sex acts on a child under the age of twelve. See Iowa Code §§ 709.1, 709.3(2) (2011). On the day trial was set to begin in April 2012, Aguilar-Garcia entered an Alford[1] plea to one count of sexual abuse in the second degree. As part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to drop the three remaining counts. The district court sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison with a mandatory seventy-percent minimum. Aguilar-Garcia did not directly appeal his conviction and sentence.

         On August 29, 2013, Aguilar-Garcia filed a pro se application for postconviction relief (PCR). On June 29, 2016, Aguilar-Garcia filed a recast petition, alleging his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by not giving him the correct information regarding possible immigration consequences and by not being prepared for trial.

         The district court held a PCR trial on July 13, 2016, at which Aguilar-Garcia and his counsel both testified. Aguilar-Garcia told the court his attorney "should have talked with my witnesses and investigated this case more." Aguilar-Garcia also testified he believed from speaking with his attorney that he would be deported shortly after he entered his guilty plea and would not have to serve the mandatory minimum of seventeen years. Attorney Tomas Rodriguez contradicted Aguilar-Garcia on both points, testifying he was ready to proceed to trial and did not give his client any guarantees concerning how long he would serve in prison before being deported.[2]

         After hearing the testimony and reviewing the criminal case file, the PCR court denied Aguilar-Garcia's application. On the question of trial preparation, the district court noted counsel had deposed the alleged victim and medical experts and counsel had reviewed all of the police reports. The court also credited counsel's testimony that he spoke with the witnesses identified by Aguilar-Garcia, who were sisters of the alleged victim, but that they had no direct knowledge of the alleged incidents and could only speak to his general character. The court did not accept the claim counsel was unprepared. On the claim regarding immigration consequences, the PCR court found counsel did not misadvise Aguilar-Garcia concerning the amount of time he would spend in prison before any deportation.

         Aguilar-Garcia now appeals the denial of his PCR application.

         II. ...


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