from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Terry R.
defendant challenges his conviction for robbery in the first
degree, as well as his convictions for two counts of using a
juvenile to commit robbery.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
determined that twenty-four-year-old Matthew Bridges enlisted
two friends, both under eighteen years of age, to help rob a
convenience store. The State charged Bridges with aiding and
abetting robbery in the first degree and two counts of using
a juvenile to commit robbery. A jury convicted Bridges of all
appeal, Bridges first seeks dismissal of all three
convictions on the basis of insufficient evidence. Because we
find substantial evidence to corroborate the accomplice
testimony, we affirm on that ground. Alternatively, Bridges
seeks a new trial on the first-degree robbery count, alleging
his attorney should have objected to jury instructions
outlining the elements of conspiracy when the State had not
charged Bridges with conspiracy under Iowa Code section 706.1
(2015). Because those jury instructions-combined with a
flawed trial information and the prosecutor's closing
argument-allowed the jury to consider a form of vicarious
liability not charged, we find a breach of duty and resulting
prejudice. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial
on the robbery conviction. We reject Bridges's remaining
grounds for reversal, and affirm his convictions on the two
counts of using a minor to commit robbery.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
November 2015, Bridges was forced to leave his father's
home in Eldora because a no-contact order prohibited him from
interacting with his brother, who also lived there. When
Bridges moved out both his girlfriend, T.H., then seventeen
years old, and his friend, G.C., then sixteen years old, left
with him. The three checked into the AmericInn in Iowa Falls.
After a couple nights at that hotel, they ran out of money,
and Bridges's father paid for one night's stay at the
their funds were depleted, Bridges concocted a plan to rob a
convenience store and suggested G.C. act as the gunman.
According to T.H., Bridges provided G.C. with a ski mask and
BB gun. But G.C. expressed concern about getting into a
shootout and preferred to have more imposing weaponry before
moving forward. So they drove back to Eldora to get "a
real gun" from the home of Bridge's father. Bridges
sent G.C. into the house, telling him where to find the
next instructed T.H. to drive to State Center where he
pointed out the Casey's General Store for G.C. to rob.
T.H. recalled that G.C. objected to the location as having
too much "open space, " fearing he would be easily
caught. So Bridges diverted the operation to Newton, where he
had previously lived. In fact, Bridges had rented an
apartment behind the Casey's General Store and was
familiar with that Newton neighborhood. Bridges assured G.C.
the new location would be easier to rob.
of the planning, Bridges walked with his two associates down
a neighborhood bike path where he advised G.C. to
"ditch" the gun and apparel after the robbery. T.H.
testified Bridges assigned her to be the lookout because G.C.
"didn't want to go in if there was customers"
in the store. Back at the convenience store parking lot, T.H.
gave the all-clear signal to Bridges and G.C. once the area
was deserted. T.H. and Bridges then walked around the front
of the building and across the street to the Newton 66,
another convenience store, while G.C. robbed the
the threesome reunited, Bridges directed them to a
friend's apartment where they divided up piles of
crumbled bills between Bridges and G.C. They left once word
of the robbery spread. According to T.H., Bridges eventually
collected the cash and hid it along a gravel road. Later,
Bridges and T.H. retrieved the money and spent it on
restaurant meals, marijuana, clothing, and various other
arrested Bridges on November 6, two days after the
Casey's robbery. A detective interviewed Bridges after
his arrest and suggested several times during the recorded
interview that Bridges was lying. The State charged Bridges with
robbery in the first degree, a class "B" felony, in
violation of Iowa Code sections 711.1(a) and 711.2. The trial
information alleged Bridges "either directly committed,
or aided and abetted in the commission of, or conspired with
or entered into a common scheme or design with one or more
others to unlawfully commit a robbery against Casey's
General Store." The State also charged Bridges with two
counts of using a juvenile to commit certain offenses, class
"C" felonies, in violation of Iowa Code section
her own robbery charge and hoping to work out a plea deal,
T.C. testified for the State at the jury trial, describing
Bridges as the driving force behind the robbery. Bridges also
testified, claiming ignorance of G.C.'s plan to rob the
Casey's and attributing the cash haul to his marijuana
dealing. The jury convicted Bridges on all three counts.
district court sentenced Bridges to concurrent indeterminate
ten-year terms on the class "C" felonies and ran
those consecutively with the twenty-five-year term for
robbery. Bridges now appeals his convictions and sentences.
Scope and Standards of Review
employ varied standards of review to address the claims
raised by Bridges on appeal. We review for errors at law
Bridges's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence
corroborating accomplice testimony and the district
court's refusal to submit a requested
lesser-included-offense jury instruction. See Herbst v.
State, 616 N.W.2d 582, 585 (Iowa 2000); State v.
Bugley, 562 N.W.2d 173, 176 (Iowa 1997). We also review
sentencing challenges for legal error; sentences within the
statutory limits will only be set aside for an abuse of
discretion. State v. Thomas, 547 N.W.2d 223, 225
review de novo Bridges's claims of ineffective assistance
of counsel. See State v. Ondayog, 722 N.W.2d 778,
783 (Iowa 2006). And we look for an abuse of discretion when
evaluating his evidentiary challenge to the admissibility of
an audio recording of a police interview. See State v.
Harrington, 800 N.W.2d 46, 48 (Iowa 2011). Although to
the extent the evidence claim is based on the hearsay rules,
we review for the correction of errors at law. See State
v. Plain, 898 N.W.2d 801, 810 (Iowa 2017).
Evidence Corroborating T.H.'s Accomplice
alleges the State offered insufficient evidence to
corroborate T.H.'s testimony connecting him to the armed
contends he was effectively convicted based on her word
State must corroborate accomplice testimony "by other
evidence which shall tend to connect the defendant with the
commission of the offense." See Iowa R. Crim.
P. 2.21(3). "[T]he corroboration is not sufficient if it
merely shows the commission of the offense or the
circumstances thereof." Id. We view
corroborating evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, including every legitimate inference that may be
deduced. See Bugely, 562 N.W.2d at 176. "[T]he
corroboration of an accomplice's testimony need not be
strong, nor must it confirm every material fact testified to
by the accomplice. It need only tend to connect an accused
with the commission of a given crime." State v.
King, 256 N.W.2d 1, 10 (Iowa 1977). Corroborating
evidence may be direct or circumstantial. State v.
Brown, 397 N.W.2d 689, 695 (Iowa 1986). But
corroborative evidence must do more than "merely raise a
suspicion the accused is the guilty party." State v.
Gillespie, 503 N.W.2d 612, 617 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993).
discounts two potential sources of corroboration-the
testimony of his brother, Zakk, concerning the gun taken from
their father's house and used in the robbery and security
camera footage showing Bridges outside the Casey's
moments before the robbery.
testified his brother expressed a desire to pick up the gun
and later disclosed he had "already grabbed it" and
was headed to Newton. Police discovered the gun south of the
Casey's following the robbery. According to Bridges, his
brother's testimony was inadequate corroboration because
Zakk disliked him and was good friends with T.H. But it was
for the jury to weigh the witness's motivation for
testifying when considering the value of the corroborating
evidence. See Bugely, 562 N.W.2d at 176 (noting
sufficiency of corroborating evidence is question for the
jury not the court).
also argues the security footage does not corroborate his
participation in the crimes because he does not deny being in
the vicinity. But the footage shows more than Bridges's
presence outside the Casey's; it reveals conduct that
T.H. described as reconnaissance. The jury could see Bridges
and T.H. circling the building, T.H. peering around the
corner waiting for possible witnesses to leave, and the pair
reappearing after the area is clear, followed closely by
G.C., who enters Casey's and robs it at gunpoint. The
jury was entitled to interpret the footage and decide if
Bridges's conduct was consistent with a clueless
bystander, as he claims, or an active participant, as T.H.
setting aside the corroboration provided by Zakk and the
security footage, the State offered other evidence to bolster
T.H.'s testimony. T.H. testified that before the robbery,
the threesome walked a nearby bike trail and Bridges told
G.C. to "ditch" his clothes along the trail after
the robbery. An officer testified to finding sweatpants and a
sweatshirt along the trail shortly after the robbery. The
State also introduced several photos of the bike trail,
strewn with clothing consistent with that worn by G.C. during
State also presented evidence to corroborate Bridges's
financial motive for planning the robbery. T.H. testified
Bridges was broke. His father testified he gave Bridges money
for a hotel room. T.H. testified, when the threesome met up
after the robbery, they went to the apartment of
Bridges's friend and divided the proceeds in a bedroom.
Bridges's friend testified he walked into his bedroom and
saw the three sorting "small dominations of crumpled-up
cash" shortly after the Casey's was robbed.
State offered sufficient evidence to corroborate T.H.'s
testimony from multiple sources-Zakk's testimony, the
security footage, and the discarded clothing, as well as the
testimony about Bridges's financial motivation. The
jurors were free to review the totality of the evidence and
determine if it connected Bridges to the crimes independently
from T.H.'s testimony. See id. The district
court properly denied the motion for judgment of acquittal on
all three offenses because the jury's verdicts were
supported by substantial evidence.
Counsel's Failure to Object to Conspiracy
State charged Bridges with robbery, either as the
an aider and abettor. The trial information-which the
prosecutor read to the jury at the start of the
trial-included a third alternative: Bridges "conspired
with or entered into a common scheme or design with one or
more others" to commit the robbery. On appeal, the State
admits that passage was "erroneous" because the
State did not charge Bridges with conspiracy under section
that backdrop, Bridges challenges his trial counsel's
failure to object to a series of jury instructions setting
out the law of conspiracy. To prove he received ineffective
assistance of counsel, Bridges must show (1) trial counsel
breached an essential duty when he lent his approval to the
proposed jury instructions on conspiracy and (2) Bridges
suffered prejudice as a result. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984). Here, the
record is adequate to address the claim on direct appeal.
See State v. Soboroff, 798 N.W.2d 1, 8 (Iowa 2011).
Breach of Duty
first to the performance prong. Bridges argues his attorney
had a duty to "know the applicable law" and to
protect him from a conviction stemming from a mistaken
application of the law. He contends counsel was remiss in not
objecting to the conspiracy instructions because they had
"no relevancy" to his robbery case and would have
been "confusing and misleading" to the jurors.
State insists counsel had no duty to object to the conspiracy
instructions. Citing State v. Tonelli, 749 N.W.2d
689, 691-92 (Iowa 2008), the State argues the court may
instruct the jury on concepts of conspiracy even when the
State has not charged the defendant under section 706.1. The
State also asserts the disputed instructions gave the jury
"particularized directives on what ...