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State v. Sinn

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 2, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ROBERT E. SINN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Henry County, Michael J. Schilling, Judge.

         Defendant challenges his conviction and sentence for sexual abuse in the third degree. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl A. Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Robert Sinn appeals his conviction for sexual abuse in the third degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4 (2016). Sinn raises two arguments on appeal. He contends the district court erred in declining to give his requested spoliation instruction. He also argues there is insufficient evidence to support his conviction.


         In August 2016, Sinn was temporarily staying with C.W., his former partner and mother of his seventeen-year-old daughter S.S. During his stay with C.W., Sinn repeatedly propositioned C.W. for fellatio and sexual intercourse. On one occasion, he exposed his penis to her and asked her to perform oral sex. She declined his repeated advances. On the night of August 4, C.W. testified she drove Sinn to the bar for drinks because Sinn was not licensed to drive. While out with Sinn, C.W. consumed four drinks. C.W. testified she had no recollection of any events after consuming her last drink until she awoke and found herself lying on her stomach in a ditch. She testified her head was inside a metal pipe, it was raining, she was cold, and she felt pain in her eye and vagina. She was naked from the waist down-wearing only a shirt but no underwear, shorts, or shoes. C.W. clawed her way up the muddy ditch, walked to a nearby home, and banged on the door. The homeowner answered the door. The homeowner testified C.W. was hysterical and covered in mud. He called the police. Then he took C.W. into the bathroom and placed her in the shower because she was so caked in mud she was having trouble seeing.

         C.W. was taken to the Henry County Health Center. She was treated and released, but she came back later in the day because she was having anxiety and suffering pain in her ribs. The examining physician testified C.W. had suffered trauma to her face and head. Her eye was bruised and almost swollen shut. C.W. had scratches and abrasions on her lower extremities. C.W. reported pain in her vaginal area. The physician noted an area of abrasion on the vaginal introitus that appeared to be recent. The physician completed a rape kit. There was no semen detected. The doctor believed C.W. had been assaulted with possible penetration of the vagina. Bloodwork tested positive for the presence of alcohol and marijuana but no other substances.

         S.S., Sinn and C.W.'s daughter, was living with Teresa Roberts, C.W.'s neighbor. S.S. testified when she got home from work, Sinn was at Roberts' house. He was nervous and soaking wet. He told S.S. four different versions of the events of the evening, but all of the versions ended with C.W. being left in the ditch because, according to Sinn, C.W. got out of the car and refused to get back in. Nonetheless, S.S. did not go search for C.W., concluding her mother would call if she needed help. S.S. testified Sinn later asked her "if Mom had a black eye, " which caused S.S. to grow concerned. S.S. testified she saw Sinn with a little blue pill earlier in the day. He called the pill "his happy pill."

         Roberts testified Sinn woke her up that evening around 11 p.m. He was wet and pacing. He told her he was with C.W. and C.W. had gotten out of the car to vomit. Sinn told Roberts C.W. would not get back in the car so he left C.W. in a ditch. He told Roberts C.W. did not have her phone because it was in his car. He also told Roberts he saw C.W. "being handsy" with a man at the bar earlier in the evening and appeared upset by this. Roberts gathered up a friend of her son and went to go look for C.W. They looked for approximately one hour, but they did not find her.

         New London Assistant Chief of Police Brandon Fowler spoke with Sinn on the night in question. Officer Fowler initially went to C.W.'s residence to conduct a welfare check on C.W.'s ten-year-old son, who was at home alone. After speaking to C.W.'s son, Fowler went to Roberts' house to ask her some questions. Fowler learned Sinn was at Roberts' house, and he asked for Sinn to come outside and speak with him. Sinn did, and Fowler asked him where he had been and with whom. Fowler testified Sinn kept asking over and over again if C.W. was all right and repeating "he hoped he wasn't in any trouble for this." Sinn told Fowler C.W. had gotten drunk and performed oral sex on him while Sinn drove around. Sinn told Officer Fowler C.W. exited the car after the two fought and fell down "like three different times." Fowler testified Sinn told him he tried helping C.W. into the car but could not so he left her there to try and get help. At this time, Fowler had not yet told Sinn C.W. was found and at the health center.

         Henry County Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bell also interviewed Sinn on the night in question. Deputy Bell had been at the health center with C.W., but he left when he learned Fowler had located Sinn at Roberts' house. Sinn initially told Deputy Bell C.W. left the bar with another man. Sinn told the deputy he got a ride home with a cousin. Deputy Bell told Sinn he believed C.W.'s phone was in Sinn's car, and Bell asked if they could retrieve it. Sinn consented. The deputy observed a brown sandal on the passenger floorboard. Sinn located the matching sandal and C.W.'s phone in the backseat and gave them to Deputy Bell. The phone had mud stuck to it. The deputy walked around the vehicle and shined his flashlight through the window. He observed jean shorts on the driver's side in the backseat. Sinn consented to the deputy taking the shorts out of the vehicle. The shorts were wet and muddy. Sinn told Deputy Bell the shorts belonged to him and the shorts were wet and muddy because Sinn had fallen down while wearing them. The shorts were women's shorts, and the deputy concluded the car was part of the crime scene and secured the vehicle to be searched pursuant to a warrant. Upon searching the ...

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