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Hildreth v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 24, 2018

JAMES ABRAHAM HILDRETH, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert J. Blink, Judge.

         James Hildreth appeals the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief, asserting his trial counsel was ineffective.

          John Audlehelm of Audlehelm Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         James Hildreth appeals from the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief, asserting his waiver of his right to a speedy trial was invalid by way of his trial counsel's ineffective assistance. Upon our review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On December 2, 2009, Hildreth was charged by trial information with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for sexually assaulting his fiancée's then six-year-old daughter. Trial was scheduled for January 7, 2010. On December 14, 2009, Hildreth's trial attorney filed a notice of taking depositions in the case. The prosecutor advised Hildreth's counsel that the State would withdraw any plea offer if Hildreth deposed the child victim. On January 5, 2010, Hildreth's counsel advised the prosecutor that Hildreth would be willing to forego depositions in exchange for a favorable plea offer. The same day, the State's Criminalistics Laboratory issued its DNA Report detailing the initial results of its DNA screening tests on the evidentiary samples collected from the State's evidence. Little DNA evidence was found in the collected samples, and what was found was identified to most likely belong to the victim. Further testing was ongoing, and the prosecutor and Hildreth agreed to continue the trial twice while awaiting the lab's completed DNA report, with trial scheduled for March 1, 2010. A status hearing was held February 24, 2010, and Hildreth was present. There, the prosecutor indicated the evidence was still being tested, and he did not expect the completed report for another two to three weeks. Ultimately, the district court was advised by the prosecutor and Hildreth's counsel that three options were before Hildreth. Hildreth's counsel explained that the State had tendered a plea offer to Hildreth, wherein Hildreth would plead guilty to lascivious acts, a class "C" felony without the mandatory minimum. Counsel advised he had discussed the offer with Hildreth, but Hildreth had indicated he wanted to wait until the DNA testing was complete before accepting the offer. The prosecutor was willing to go to trial on the scheduled date, which complied with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(b)-Iowa's speedy-trial rule. The prosecutor was also willing to accept the plea offer that day, or, if Hildreth agreed to waive his rule 2.33(2)(b) right to trial within ninety days, the prosecutor would agree to continuing trial to await the results of the additional DNA testing. The prosecutor further stated:

I just want to make sure that Mr. Hildreth understands that he is not going to later, if he gets convicted, he is not going to blame his attorney because he didn't do depositions or he didn't get the DNA, which could be favorable; could be unfavorable to him. So those are the concerns.

         The court conducted a colloquy with Hildreth:

THE COURT: So, Mr. Hildreth, as I understand it, you are willing to waive and you are waiving speedy trial so you can get the DNA evidence. Is that correct?
[HILDRETH]: Yes.
THE COURT: You understand, though, I will try to get this trial up within a very reasonable time. And I am trying to ballpark about 30 days or so. It could be because of the court's docket I can't do it that fast. ...

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