from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann
M. Lekar, Judge.
defendant appeals his convictions for sexual abuse in the
third degree and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., McDonald, J., and Blane,
Sahir was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse and assault
with the intent to commit sexual abuse. On appeal, Sahir
argues the convictions were contrary to the weight of the
evidence and his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
adequately challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to
convict him and for failing to adequately assert evidentiary
challenges at trial.
Background Facts and Proceedings
2012, T.O.C. (born 1996) was living with her mother and
Sahir. One evening, Sahir came into T.O.C.'s bedroom
while she was in bed and told her "there's things
[she] can do to make [herself] feel better so [she's] not
so mad and so [she doesn't] go have sex." Sahir put
his hand on her, put his hand into her pants, and penetrated
her vagina with his fingers, "moving them in a circle
inside of [her] vagina." On Father's Day, a similar
incident occurred, although Sahir's hand was above
thereafter, T.O.C. went to stay with her mother's sister
in California for the summer. The relative observed Sahir
made frequent late night phone calls to T.O.C. while she was
in California. The relative asked T.O.C. if Sahir abused her,
and, after an initial denial, T.O.C. said Sahir had abused
her. Soon thereafter, the relative and T.O.C. returned to
Iowa. T.O.C.'s mother questioned her about the allegation
against Sahir. T.O.C. was not allowed to return home. She
first went to live with her grandmother and was then placed
in foster care. In August 2012, T.O.C. gave an interview with
a child protection center about the abuse.
2013, Sahir was charged with sexual abuse in the third
degree, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa
Code section 709.4 (2011); and assault with the intent to
commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor, in violation
of section 709.11. Sahir pleaded not guilty. Throughout the
proceedings, Sahir wholly denied the allegations made against
him. He stated the incident on Father's Day could not
have happened because he had a severe toothache that day. He
also argued the allegations against him only surfaced once he
and T.O.C.'s mother threatened to send T.O.C. to Mexico
as punishment for her behavior.
went to trial and was ultimately found guilty as charged by a
jury. Sahir filed a motion for new trial on the following
grounds: (1) the verdict returned was contrary to the law and
evidence in several respects; (2) the court erred in granting
the State's motion to amend the trial information, which
prejudiced Sahir; and (3) the district court erred in ruling
on several evidentiary issues at trial. The trial judge
denied the motion and sentenced Sahir to concurrent sentences
of ten years and two years in prison, along with fines, a
lifetime special sentence pursuant to section 903B.1, a sex
offender treatment program, and registration as a sex
offender. Sahir now appeals.
Weight of the Evidence
review rulings on motions for new trial for abuse of
discretion. See State v. Nitcher, 720 N.W.2d 547,
559 (Iowa 2006). Trial courts have wide discretion in ruling
on motions for new trial. See Iowa R. App. P.
6.904(3)(c). A court only abuses its discretion in denying a
motion for new trial when "the evidence ...