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State v. Moore

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ASADA SHAKUR MOORE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Carol L Coppola (motion to suppress) and William A. Price (trial and sentencing), District Associate Judges.

         The defendant appeals from her convictions and sentences for driving while barred, as an habitual offender, and assault on a peace officer. AFFIRMED.

          Cathleen J. Siebrecht of Siebrecht Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., Potterfield, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         Asada Moore appeals from her convictions and sentences for driving while barred, as an habitual offender, and assault on a peace officer. She claims the district court was wrong to deny her motion to suppress because the stop of her vehicle was not supported by probable cause, the trial and sentencing judge should have recused himself, and there is insufficient evidence to support her conviction for driving while barred.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In the early morning hours of April 25, 2015, Urbandale Police Officer Eric Wilcutt and other officers were working for the Central Iowa Traffic Safety Task Force Unit. The unit was "doing a saturation patrol" due to Drake Relays and a large concert both taking place in the same area. At approximately 1:15 a.m., Officer Wilcutt noticed a vehicle that he believed was traveling at a higher rate than the posted speed limit. He began to follow the vehicle and then noticed the vehicle's license plate frame was partially covering the county on the vehicle's license plate. Officer Wilcutt initiated a traffic stop based on the obstructed view of the license plate. When he made contact with the driver, Moore, he learned she was barred from driving. Moore had a temporary restricted license, but those restrictions only allowed her to drive to work and back. Moore admitted she was picking up intoxicated friends from the concert. As a result, Officer Wilcutt arrested Moore; she was charged with driving while barred, as an habitual offender.

         Moore filed a motion to suppress, claiming the officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop her on the morning in question. The matter proceeded to hearing in August.

         At the hearing, Moore questioned why the officer did not have a photograph of the license plate to show how the lettering was obstructed. She also challenged whether the officer had probable cause to stop when he was able to relay the necessary information-the license plate's identifying numbers and letters-to dispatch. The court, ruling from the bench, denied Moore's motion to suppress. In doing so, the court explicitly found Officer Wilcutt's testimony regarding his reason for initiating the stop credible, noting "He did, in fact, advise [Moore] at the time that that was the reason that he stopped [her]."

         The underlying charge proceeded to a jury trial in March 2016. At the time set for trial, Moore asked the judge to recuse himself. She reported she had worked at a care center where the judge's wife was a patient approximately eighteen months before. Moore maintained she often spoke with the wife, had brought meals in when the judge was with his wife, and had contact with the judge through her employment "more than ten times."[1] When asked additional questions, Moore stated, "I have met him before. You know, I came in the room. I talked to you a couple times, but I'm not saying-I have talked to you guys. Brought you all food in there. Sat back and talked and I always had conversations with your wife." The judge denied the recusal motion, stating:

I have no-other than the fact that my wife was at [the nursing home], I have no reason-and I certainly have no reason to disbelieve Ms. Moore that our paths did cross there. But I had no recollection of it before she raised it. And the fact that she raised it, I have no recollection. There was not-there were no issues with [the nursing home] or the care my wife received. I don't know how many caregivers ...

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