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Jasper v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

CLINT JASPER, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Crawford County, Duane E. Hoffmeyer, Judge.

         A postconviction applicant appeals the denial of relief.

          Drew H. Kouris, Council Bluffs, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         The State charged Clint Jasper with four counts of sexual abuse in the second degree-exposing him to the possibility of up to one-hundred years in prison. His attorney negotiated a deal with the State in which Jasper entered Alford[1] pleas to three counts of lascivious acts with a minor in return for an indeterminate twenty-year sentence. The district court accepted the plea agreement after engaging in a thorough colloquy with Jasper. Jasper did not file a direct appeal but did apply for postconviction relief (PCR) in which he challenged his plea attorney's performance. The district court denied relief, and Jasper now appeals. He alleges his counsel should have arranged for intelligence testing and failed to explain the plea bargain or what rights Jasper would waive by agreeing to it.[2] Finding no breach of duty by counsel, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         The State anticipated presenting evidence that Jasper forced three children-ages three, four, and five years-to perform oral sex on him and attempted to sodomize two of the children. The State filed a trial information charging four counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, class "B" felonies, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.3(2) (2012). Each count carried a twenty-five year term with a seventy-percent mandatory minimum.

         Attorney Peter Goldsmith appeared for Jasper during the criminal proceedings. Goldsmith recalled talking to Jasper "numerous" times on the phone and meeting in-person on multiple occasions. Together, Goldsmith and Jasper reviewed the videotaped interviews of the three children from Project Harmony, a Child Protection Center. During his representation, Goldsmith noted Jasper's below-average intellect. According to Goldsmith, he suggested Jasper be evaluated to determine his "mental health or his understanding."[3] Jasper refused, claiming he didn't want to be labeled "crazy, " and remained steadfast in his refusal even after Goldsmith explained that would not be the purpose of the examination.

         Because Goldsmith was aware of Jasper's intellectual limitations, he tried to use basic vocabulary, spent more time than usual going over issues, and had Jasper repeat things back using his own words to check for understanding. Goldsmith did not approach the district court to seek a competency hearing because he thought Jasper was competent and Jasper opposed an evaluation.

         Goldsmith prepared for trial while also negotiating a plea deal. He knew Jasper did not want to admit guilt so he sought Alford pleas. Goldsmith and the prosecutor went through a series of offers before reaching an agreement satisfactory to Jasper. Goldsmith sent Jasper a letter detailing what rights he would give up through a plea agreement.

         At the plea hearing, the court ensured Jasper was not impaired, was fully informed about his plea, and knew what rights he forfeited. The court periodically stopped to confirm Jasper didn't have any questions or need more explanation. The court accepted Jasper's Alford pleas to three counts of lascivious acts with a child, class "C" felonies, in violation of section 709.8. Jasper requested immediate sentencing and received three terms of ten years each, one concurrent and two consecutive, for a total of twenty years without a mandatory minimum.

         Once in prison, Jasper completed a skills intake assessment to gauge his educational proficiency. Eventually, Jasper sent Goldsmith a letter asking about an appeal. The appeal deadline had passed, so Goldsmith informed Jasper of his PCR rights. Jasper then filed this PCR action, arguing (1) he thought he was pleading to one count, not three, (2) he did not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently enter his pleas; (3) Goldsmith was ineffective for failing to explain the plea agreement and what rights were forfeited; and (4) Goldsmith was ...


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