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State v. Siner

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DESMON RAHEEN SINER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Timothy J. Finn, Judge.

         Desmon Siner appeals the convictions entered following his Alford pleas to the charges of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and willful injury causing serious injury.

          Charles J. Kenville of Kenville Law Firm, P.C., Fort Dodge, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J. and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Desmon Siner appeals the convictions entered following his Alford pleas[1]to the charges of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and willful injury causing serious injury. He contends (1) the district court erred in accepting his pleas because they were not supported by strong evidence of actual guilt and (2) the court erred in denying his request to withdraw his pleas on the ground that they were entered involuntarily.

         I. Background Proceedings

         In early 2017, Siner and three codefendants were charged with a number of crimes: two counts of attempt to commit murder; one count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon; two counts of willful injury causing serious injury; and one count of accessory after the fact.[2]

         At a subsequent pretrial conference on May 8, Siner's counsel advised the court that a plea agreement had been reached under which Siner would enter Alford pleas to one count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and one count of willful injury causing serious injury in return for the State's dismissal of all other charges. Siner advised the court he agreed to the terms. Siner was advised of the penalties of each of the charges and the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. Siner advised the court he was satisfied with his counsel's services and representation and his decision to enter the Alford pleas was his own voluntary choice. Finally, Siner agreed the minutes of testimony included a sufficient basis to find him guilty of the charges and he was receiving a benefit by entering guilty pleas. The court found the minutes of testimony provided a sufficient factual basis for both charges, accepted the pleas, and set the matter for sentencing.

         On May 26, defense counsel filed a motion in arrest of judgment arguing there was insufficient evidence to find Siner committed the offenses to which he pled guilty. On June 2, Siner filed a pro se motion to withdraw his pleas in which he alleged his attorney placed him under duress and pressured him to accept the State's plea offer. At the sentencing hearing, the district court denied both motions, entered judgment, and imposed sentence. Siner appeals. Additional facts will be set forth below as are relevant to the issues raised on appeal.

         II. Standard of Review

         "We review a district court's . . . denial of a motion in arrest of judgment and a motion to withdraw a plea for abuse of discretion." State v. Smith, 753 N.W.2d 574, 581 (Iowa 2008). "A court abuses its discretion when the grounds or reasons for the court's decision are 'clearly untenable' or when the court has exercised its discretion to an extent that is 'clearly unreasonable.'" Lee v. State, ___ N.W.2d___, ___, 2018 WL 387939, at *5 (Iowa 2018) (quoting Equity Control Assocs., Ltd. v. Root, 638 N.W.2d 664, 674 (Iowa 2001)). "A ground or reason is untenable when it is not supported by substantial evidence or when it is based on an erroneous application of the law." Id. (quoting Root, 638 N.W.2d at 674). Unless the contrary is shown, it is presumed the district court's decision is correct. Id.

         III. ...


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