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State v. Wiltse

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ASHLEY NICOLE WILTSE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, Colleen D. Weiland, Judge.

         Ashely Nicole Wiltse appeals her conviction and sentence for wanton neglect of a resident of a health care facility.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Ashely Nicole Wiltse appeals her conviction and sentence for wanton neglect of a resident of a health care facility. We find trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence and error was not preserved concerning the admission of a recorded interview. We do find the district court abused its discretion in establishing conditions of Wiltse's probation. We affirm the district court in part, vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Wiltse worked as a certified nurse's assistant (CNA) at Chautauqua Guest Homes (Chautauqua), a health care facility in Charles City, Iowa. On February 12, 2016, Wiltse sent a text message asking a former employee of Chautauqua where she could get Xanax. The former employee did not respond.

         On February 16, Caleb Schadt was found unresponsive in his room. Schadt was a resident of Chautauqua after receiving severe injuries in a car accident, leaving him a quadriplegic. Schadt was moved from his chair to the bed and could not be awakened. Wiltse's shift ended, and she left with another CNA. During the drive Wiltse told the other CNA she had given Schadt Xanax and had taken some herself. Neither Schadt nor Wiltse had a prescription for Xanax.

         Schadt eventually regained consciousness and admitted he had taken Xanax but would not tell staff how it was obtained. The only guest Schadt had on February 16 was Jamison Zirbel, a friend of Schadt and Wiltse's former fiancé. At trial Schadt testified Zirbel had given him the Xanax.

         Wiltse pleaded not guilty on April 20. Trial was held on November 29 and 30. Wiltse filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude the use of a recording of an interview, which she describes as an interrogation, by an investigator for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. Wiltse also filed an amended motion in limine on this issue. Both motions were denied. Wiltse was found guilty of wanton neglect of a resident of a health care facility, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.7(1) and (3) (2016). The district court sentenced Wiltse to one year in jail with credit for time served and all but ten days suspended, two years of probation, and a $625 fine with a thirty-five percent surcharge, and with all but $100 suspended. The district court also entered a no-contact order, ordered payment of sheriff's fees and costs, and ordered payment of $150 in attorney fees. Wiltse now appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are reviewed de novo. Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the [defendant] must demonstrate both ineffective assistance and prejudice." Id. at 142. "If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on that ground alone without deciding whether the attorney performed deficiently." Id. Both elements ...


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