from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Mary Ann
defendant challenges his sentence for conspiracy to commit
kidnapping in the third degree.
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.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
defendant Jonathon Smyles pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
commit kidnapping in the third degree, in violation of Iowa
Code sections 706.1 (1)(a) and (b) and 706.3(1) (2015). The
district court sentenced Smyles to an indeterminate term of
incarceration not to exceed ten years. In this appeal, Smyles
challenges his sentence, contending the district court abused
its discretion in failing to suspend the sentence.
review sentencing decisions for correction of errors at law.
See State v. Witham, 583 N.W.2d 677, 678
(Iowa 1998). A sentencing decision will not be reversed
absent a showing of an abuse of discretion or some defect in
the sentencing proceeding. See State v. Formaro, 638
N.W.2d 720, 724 (Iowa 2002). "Discretion expresses the
notion of latitude." State v. McNeal, 897
N.W.2d 697, 710 (Iowa 2017) (Cady, C.J., concurring
specially). This court will find an abuse of discretion only
when a sentencing court acts on grounds clearly untenable or
to an extent clearly unreasonable. See Formaro, 638
N.W.2d at 724. This standard is deferential to the sentencing
Judicial discretion imparts the power to act within legal
parameters according to the dictates of a judge's own
conscience, uncontrolled by the judgment of others. It is
essential to judging because judicial decisions frequently
are not colored in black and white. Instead, they deal in
differing shades of gray, and discretion is needed to give
the necessary latitude to the decision-making process. This
inherent latitude in the process properly limits our review.
Thus, our task on appeal is not to second guess the decision
made by the district court, but to determine if it was
unreasonable or based on untenable grounds.
See State v. Seats, 865 N.W.2d 545, 553 (Iowa 2015).
general rule, the sentencing court should consider all
pertinent matters, including, but not limited to, "the
nature of the offense, the attending circumstances,
defendant's age, character and propensities and chances
of his reform." State v. Laffey, 600 N.W.2d 57,
62 (Iowa 1999). "The court must exercise its discretion
without application of a personal, inflexible policy relating
only to one consideration." State v. Jackson,
No. 14-1778, 2015 WL 3625243, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 10,
2015) (citing State v. Hildebrand, 280 N.W.2d 393,
397 (Iowa 1979) and State v. Kelley, 357 N.W.2d 638,
640 (Iowa Ct. App. 1984)).
contends the district court abused its discretion in imposing
sentence. Specifically, Smyles seems to argue the district
court abused its discretion by applying a fixed policy of
requiring incarceration for this type of crime. In support of
his claim, Smyles notes the district court stated during
sentencing, "[I]t's my conclusion that a term of
incarceration is necessary and mandated because of the type
of crime." Smyles takes the district court's
statement out of context.
the entire proceeding is reviewed, it is clear the district
court understood it had the discretion to suspend the
sentence and exercised that discretion in a reasonable
matter. The district court stated, "I am cognizant of
the fact that you have pled guilty to a nonforcible felony,
you do not have to go to prison." Importantly, and
contrary to the defendant's apparent contention, the
district court did not consider the nature of the offense,
generally, in concluding incarceration was an appropriate
sentence. Instead, the district court considered the specific
facts and circumstances of this offense. For example, the
district court stated, "I took your guilty plea, so I
heard what you admitted to and what you did in this case. And
that's what I'm sentencing you on today and
that's what I'm taking into consideration when I
decide what is the right sentence." The district court
made similar statements evincing consideration of the unique
facts and circumstances of this case rather than enforcing a
personal policy that incarceration is always appropriate for
this offense, generally. It is also clear the district court
considered other factors in addition to the nature of the
crime. The district court considered Smyles' relatively
young age, education, substance abuse history (or lack
thereof), strong employment history, and lack of criminal
the core of the defendant's argument is he simply
disagrees with the district court's exercise of
discretion. This is not a ground for relief. See,
e.g., State v. McDowell, No. 17-0679, 2017 WL
6034123, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 6, 2017) (noting that ...