from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, George L.
Prince Sr. appeals his convictions for sexual abuse and
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Maria L. Ruhtenberg,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., Mullins, J., and Goodhue, S.J.
Prince Sr. was charged with four counts of sexual abuse in
the third degree and four counts of incest stemming from
sexual contact with his daughter, A.P. Prince waived his
right to a jury trial. After a bench trial, the district
court returned written guilty verdicts on all eight counts.
moved in with Prince and his wife when she was eleven years
old. Roughly a year later, Prince began engaging A.P. in
sexual contact. A.P. gave specific details about several
instances of sexual contact with Prince and testified Prince
engaged her in intercourse between forty to fifty times.
Eventually A.P. confided in her peers and her tutor. Several
of A.P.'s peers and her tutor testified A.P. told them
she had inappropriate contact with Prince. A State
criminalist testified she found a mixture of bodily fluids on
a sheet that included DNA profiles consistent with Prince and
A.P. Prince testified A.P. made it all up and was trying to
break up Prince and his wife. At closing, the prosecution
stated A.P. would not make up such specific details if it did
not occur and posed a rhetorical question asking why A.P.
would make up such allegations if they were not true.
district court filed a written verdict, supported by findings
of fact and conclusions of law. At sentencing, the court
noted the charges against Prince and that the verdict was
guilty on each charge. When questioned if this was a
sufficient reading of the verdict, the court declined to
provide any more detail. The court then sentenced Prince to
serve not more than twenty years of
appeal, Prince makes several arguments through counsel.
First, Prince argues he received ineffective assistance of
counsel when his trial counsel failed to object to the
prosecution's statement during closing argument that A.P.
would not make up specific details if they did not happen.
Second, the district court failed to read the verdict in open
court. And third, the district court failed to provide a
justification for imposing consecutive sentences. Prince also
raises claims in his pro se brief. He questions the
sufficiency of the evidence and argues he received
ineffective assistance of trial counsel for counsel's
failure to present certain evidence at trial.
first address his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel
when counsel failed to object to the prosecution's
statement A.P. would not make up specific details if they did
not happen. We may resolve an
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim on direct appeal when
the record is sufficient to do so. State v. Maxwell,
743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008). We review
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo. State
v. Thorndike, 860 N.W.2d 316, 319 (Iowa 2015). To
establish his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel,
Prince "must prove: (1) counsel failed to perform an
essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted."
Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d at 195 (citing Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)).
asserts the prosecution was vouching for A.P.'s
credibility. Although the prosecutor may not express his
personal belief regarding the credibility of a specific
witness, he "may argue the reasonable inferences and
conclusions to be drawn from the evidence." See
State v. Graves, 668 N.W.2d 860, 874 (Iowa 2003) (citing
State v. Phillips, 226 N.W.2d 16, 19 (Iowa 1975)).
Here, the prosecution restated A.P.'s testimony about her
little brother waking up in view of A.P. and Prince as they
had intercourse. The prosecution noted the level of detail
A.P. was able to recount, and then stated "[A.P.]
wouldn't be making up such details to the court if it
didn't happen. Who would make up such a story, talking
about when she was [twelve], if this really didn't
happen, she didn't really experience this?"
the prosecution's statement was improper vouching-which
we need not decide-it did not mislead the court, serving as
the fact finder, to convict Prince "for reasons other
than the evidence introduced at trial and the law."
Id. at 877. Because this case proceeded as a bench
trial, Prince benefitted from having a trained legal expert
serve as his fact finder. "[L]egal training assists the
fact finder in a bench trial 'to remain unaffected by
matters that should not influence the
determination.'" State v. Bonilla, No.
05-0596, 2006 WL 3313783, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2006)
(quoting State v. Matheson, 684 N.W.2d 243, 244
(Iowa 2004)). We have carefully reviewed the written findings
and conclusions of the district court and find nothing that
indicates any reliance by the court on the prosecution's
statement. Prince cannot show he was prejudiced by the
prosecution's closing argument.
next claims the verdict was deficient because the court did
not reconvene to read the verdict in open court, as required
by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.17(2). "We review
interpretations of the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure for
corrections of errors at law." State v. Jones,
817 N.W.2d 11, 17 (Iowa 2012) (citing State v. Finn,
469 N.W.2d 692, 693 (Iowa 1991)). Rule 2.17(2) states,
"In a case tried without a jury the court shall find the