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State v. Christner

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRIAN MATTHEW CHRISTNER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart P. Werling (motion to continue) and Mark J. Smith (sentencing), Judges.

         Brian Christner appeals his conviction and sentence following a guilty plea to possession of a product to be used in the manufacture of a controlled substance. AFFIRMED.

          Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Brian Christner was charged with conspiracy to commit a non-forcible felony and possession of a product to be used in the manufacture of a controlled substance. See Iowa Code §§ 124.401(4), 706.3(2) (2015). A plea agreement was reached in which Christner would enter a guilty plea to the possession charge in return for the State's dismissal of the conspiracy charge and recommendation against incarceration. The agreement required Christner's completion of a substance-abuse evaluation and treatment prior to sentencing and conditioned the State's recommendation against incarceration upon Christner's cooperation in the preparation of a presentence investigation report (PSI) and appearance "where and as required." The court's concurrence with the agreement was also noted as a condition of the acceptance of a guilty plea, but if Christer failed to cooperate in the preparation of a PSI or failed to appear, then the court was allowed to sentence him to a "less favorable disposition" than that provided for in the agreement.

         On February 26, 2016, Christner entered his guilty plea and the court deferred acceptance or rejection thereof pending the receipt of a PSI and approval of the plea agreement. The court ordered the preparation of a PSI and set the matter for sentencing on April 21. Christner moved to continue the subsequent sentencing hearing, noting he initially "did not show up for his PSI Interview, " but was interviewed thereafter, and the department of corrections would need additional time to complete the PSI.[1] The court continued sentencing to May 13. At the May 13 sentencing hearing, Christner's counsel moved for another continuance to allow Christner more time to obtain a substance-abuse evaluation, as Christner was unaware that he was required to obtain the evaluation. The court responded:

Having had an opportunity to review the plea agreement and the PSI, the Court is going to grant the motion to continue for the following reasons. The Court is troubled that the plea agreement requires the State to recommend against incarceration, yet the PSI recommends incarceration . . . and further finds that the Defendant is at a high risk of violent re-offending . . . .
The Defendant has previously been found to have-noted to have obtained substance abuse evaluation, sometimes
successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. I think this case-I'll advise defense counsel that this case is ripe for a rejection of the plea agreement.
And I think that there might be some further negotiations between the parties required, or at least useful, in determining what sentencing recommendations the parties are going to make. The plea agreement, I think, is probably-
Well, the plea agreement simply is not supported by the PSI. That's the fact that is presented in this sentencing, and I think that that presents, as I said, a situation that ...

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