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State v. Bonilla

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 2, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EVER ULISES BONILLA, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A. Romano, Judge.

         Defendant appeals from his convictions for third-degree sexual abuse and false imprisonment. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Aaron J. Rogers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., Bower, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Ever Bonilla appeals from his convictions for third-degree sexual abuse and false imprisonment, contending his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to specifically assert in his motion for judgment of acquittal the insufficiency of the evidence supporting the false-imprisonment charge.[1] Bonilla also asserts the district court erred in determining the weight of the evidence supports the jury's verdict on the false-imprisonment conviction. Finally, Bonilla contends the district court erred in ordering him to pay restitution for court costs and court-appointed-attorney fees. Because we conclude there was sufficient evidence to support the false-imprisonment charge, Bonilla's counsel was not ineffective in failing to make a more specific argument in the motion for judgment of acquittal. Also, we conclude the jury verdict was not against the weight of the evidence and the district court considered Bonilla's ability to pay in ordering restitution. Accordingly, we affirm Bonilla's convictions and sentences.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         From the evidence presented at trial, the jury could have found the following facts. Bonilla and his former girlfriend, M.F., had one young child together but were not living together. On the evening of October 10, 2016, Bonilla messaged M.F. and asked if he could take their child to a restaurant. M.F. agreed and drove herself, Bonilla, and their son to the restaurant, but they left soon as it was near closing time. After getting food at a fast-food restaurant, they went to Bonilla's parents' home, where Bonilla had a room upstairs. The child watched cartoons and eventually fell asleep on the bed.

         Bonilla then asked M.F. to lie down on the bed with him. M.F. told him she was not interested, and she attempted to gather her son and leave the room. Bonilla prevented her from leaving, pushed her down, and attempted to hug and kiss her. M.F. still refused and tried to push Bonilla away. Bonilla grabbed M.F., forcefully removed her pants and underwear, and penetrated her vaginally while recording the encounter with his cell phone.

         M.F. was eventually able to get away from Bonilla and make it to the top of the stairs. M.F. found a knife and prepared to use it to defend herself; however, Bonilla grabbed a glass cup, and, according to M.F.'s testimony, he threatened to "to cut this glass and . . . slit [M.F.'s] throat with the glass." Although she had fled from the room once, M.F. did not want to leave her son alone with Bonilla. Bonilla then forced M.F. back into the room where he continued to perform sex acts on her. He recorded the acts on his cell phone while M.F. repeated her pleas to stop. During the acts, Bonilla held the glass cup in his hand. Once the encounter ended, M.F. called the police from a downstairs bathroom. When the police arrived, they collected M.F.'s son and detained Bonilla.

         The State charged Bonilla with third-degree sexual abuse and false imprisonment on November 21, 2016. Both charges were tried before a jury. Bonilla was found guilty, and he was sentenced to indeterminate prison terms of ten years on the sexual-abuse conviction and one year on the false-imprisonment conviction, the sentences to be served consecutively. The district court also imposed a special sentence pursuant to Iowa Code section 903B.1 (2016) and required Bonilla to register as a sex offender pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 692A. The fines were suspended but Bonilla was ordered to pay restitution in the form of court-appointed-attorney fees as well as court costs. Bonilla appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. State v. Thorndike, 860 N.W.2d 316, 319 (Iowa 2015). We review sufficiency-of-the-evidence claims for errors of law. State v. Begey, 672 N.W.2d 747, 749 (Iowa 2003). When a district court rules on a motion for new trial based on whether the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence, we review the ruling for abuse of discretion. State v. Thompson, 836 N.W.2d 470, 476 (Iowa 2013). ...


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