from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Joel W.
Bennett appeals one conviction of domestic abuse assault with
intent to inflict serious injury and the sentences imposed
upon that conviction and an additional conviction.
M. Phelps, Davenport, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
found Rees Bennett guilty of domestic abuse assault with
intent to inflict serious injury, and Bennett pled guilty to
a separate offense of domestic abuse assault with intent to
inflict serious injury. He appeals the conviction based on
the jury verdict and the sentences imposed upon both
convictions. As to the jury verdict, he contends the evidence
was insufficient to show that he was the person who committed
the assault and his counsel rendered ineffective assistance
in failing to file a motion for a new trial on
weight-of-the-evidence grounds. As to both convictions, he argues
the district court abused its discretion in sentencing
because the sentence imposed does "not serve the
important goal of rehabilitation nearly as well as the
sentence suggested by defense counsel."
Background Facts and Proceedings
upon the evidence presented, a reasonable jury could have
found the following facts. In the late evening hours of
August 6, 2016, T.A. and his wife were at their home watching
television when they heard a loud knock on their door. Upon
answering the door, T.A. observed his daughter, P.A., who was
"hysterical, crying, [and] upset." P.A.'s
condition prompted her parents to call 911. An emergency
medical technician examined P.A. on the scene and observed a
cut on the inside of P.A.'s lip, swelling of the lip,
swelling around her left eye, and bruising on her right arm.
P.A. advised the technician she had been the victim of an
assault and was punched in the head and upper body more than
ten times. P.A. was transported to the hospital by ambulance;
her father accompanied her. At the hospital, P.A. repeated
the cause of her injuries to her treating physician. The
physician diagnosed P.A. with a concussion.
sheriff's deputy interviewed P.A. at the hospital. The
deputy provided rebuttal testimony at the trial that P.A.
advised him she and Bennett got into an argument concerning
Bennett's consumption of alcohol. Thereafter, while P.A.
and Bennett were traveling in a vehicle, the argument turned
physical, which involved Bennett repeatedly hitting P.A. in
the head and face with his fists. P.A. was able to convince
Bennett to pull the vehicle over, at which time she exited
the vehicle and ran. Bennett followed her in the vehicle and,
when she stopped running, Bennett got out of the vehicle and
kicked P.A. into a ditch, after which Bennett continued to
repeatedly strike her in the head and face.
following morning, August 7, Bennett was arrested and charged
with domestic abuse assault with intent to inflict serious
injury and a no-contact order was issued. While in jail,
Bennett had telephone conversations with his mother; these
calls were recorded. Two of the calls occurred on August 9.
In the first call, Bennett's mother implicitly accused
him of committing the assault, stating, "I can't
believe my son would do something like that." Bennett
responded, "I will say that I wish I could say I was
sorry to her and that I was in the wrong and nothing should
have ever happened." In the second call, Bennett's
mother described P.A.'s injuries and advised Bennett he
hurt her. Bennett responded, "I know and I'm
August 11, Bennett posted bond and was released from jail. On
August 14, P.A. filed a motion to dismiss the no-contact
order. On August 18, Bennett was stopped by law enforcement
for speeding. P.A. was a passenger in the vehicle. Bennett
was taken into custody for violation of the no-contact order.
Bennett again posted bond and was released from jail shortly
thereafter. On August 23, the district court denied
P.A.'s motion to dismiss the no-contact order. On August
24, Bennett was arrested on a second charge of domestic abuse
assault with intent to inflict serious injury upon P.A. The
district court denied the State's subsequent motion to
combine the criminal cases.
first case proceeded to a jury trial. P.A. testified for the
defense and denied Bennett's involvement in her assault,
stating instead that it was her parents who caused her
injuries. She denied she ever spoke to the police on the
night in question and testified to her love for Bennett. The
jury found Bennett guilty in November. In December, pursuant
to a plea agreement, Bennett pled guilty in the second case.
The district court sentenced Bennett to, among other things,
two years of incarceration on each charge, to be served
concurrently. As noted, Bennett appeals. Additional facts may
be set forth below as are relevant to the issues on appeal.