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State v. Bennett

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 4, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
REES GREGORY BENNETT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Joel W. Barrows, Judge.

         Rees 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. AFFIRMED.

          Lauren M. Phelps, Davenport, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          MULLINS, Judge.

         A jury 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.[1] 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."

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Based 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.

         A local 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.

         The 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 sorry."

         On 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.

         The 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.

         II. Sufficiency ...


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