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State v. Chaney

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STEVEN CHANEY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Cheryl E. Traum, District Associate Judge.

         Steven Chaney appeals his convictions, following a jury trial, of assault on a police officer and interference with official acts.

          Thomas A. Hurd of Glazebrook, Greenberg & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Steven Chaney appeals his convictions, following a jury trial, of assault on a peace officer and interference with official acts, contending the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion in limine requesting exclusion of a portion of a video displaying the circumstances of his arrest. Chaney specifically argues the evidence's probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

         Upon the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable jury could have made the following factual findings. On June 22, 2016, Officer Karl Drezek of the Davenport Police Department was providing security for a local convenience store. At approximately 11:00 p.m., Drezek was advised by a store employee a "fight or disturbance" was occurring in the store's parking lot. Drezek made his way to the area of the disturbance and observed three individuals-Chaney, Annette Spight, and Jameelah Bogan-engaged in a "physical fight." Drezek made contact with the subjects, but was unable to deescalate the situation. Drezek advised he would be calling for backup and he would be arresting the group for disorderly conduct, upon which the three subjects got into their vehicle and attempted to leave. Drezek advised the subjects they could not leave and approached the vehicle and directed Bogan to give him the keys to the vehicle. When Drezek reached for the keys, Bogan "pulled away," upon which Chaney grabbed Drezek's arm. Surprised, Drezek pushed Chaney to the ground and backed away. Chaney immediately got up from the ground and began yelling at Drezek. Chaney advised he "was going to kick [Drezek's] ass" and "balled up his hands like he was going to fight." Bogan intervened and, while she was distracting Chaney, Drezek grabbed Chaney's arm, took him to the ground, and sat on him. Chaney resisted, attempting to writhe from Drezek's control, and continued to threaten Drezek. This struggle continued until four other officers arrived on the scene roughly four minutes later and took control of Chaney and Bogan.

         Officers Austin Ryckeghem and Gregory Lalla took control of Chaney, placed him in handcuffs, and attempted to secure him in the back seat of Ryckeghem's patrol car. As the officers were placing Chaney in the patrol car, Chaney kicked Lalla in the upper thigh.

         Chaney was ultimately charged with public intoxication; disorderly conduct; interference with official acts; and two counts of assault on a peace officer, one count as to Drezek and one count as to Lalla.

         Prior to trial, Chaney filed a motion in limine requesting the court to exclude a specific portion of Ryckeghem's squad car video, contending his "arrest and subsequent charges had already occurred and any portion of the video following the basis for the arrest and charges is irrelevant, unduly prejudicial, inflammatory and would only be used to incense the jury."[1] The district court considered the motion the morning of trial. The State argued the contents of the video were "relevant to show [Chaney's] state of mind and relative to the facts of intoxication, [Chaney's] demeanor when he assaulted the police officer, [and] his demeanor for the interference." Chaney's counsel argued the comments made by Chaney in the video are "too prejudicial" and would "inflame the jury." The court ruled the video would be admissible in its entirety.

         The jury found Chaney guilty of interference with official acts and assault on a peace officer as to Lalla. The jury found Chaney not guilty of disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and assault on a peace officer as to Drezek. Chaney appealed following the imposition of sentence.

         As noted, Chaney contends the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion in limine requesting exclusion of a portion of the video displaying the circumstances of his arrest. Chaney appears to agree the evidence was at least minimally relevant, [2] but seems to argue the court abused its discretion in failing to consider whether, or rule that, the evidence's probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. See Iowa R. Evid. 5.403 ("The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair prejudice."). The State maintains Chaney failed to preserve error on his claim, contending the district court's pretrial ruling on the admissibility of the challenged evidence was not unequivocal and Chaney failed to object to the admissibility of the video when it was offered at trial. We choose to bypass the State's error-preservation concern and proceed to the merits. See, e.g., State v. Taylor, 596 N.W.2d 55, 56 (Iowa 1999).

         Appellate review of the district court's rulings on the admissibility of evidence on prejudice grounds is for an abuse of discretion. See Mercer v. Pittway Corp., 616 N.W.2d 602, 612 (Iowa 2000). An abuse of discretion "occurs when a district court exercises its discretion on grounds or for reasons clearly untenable or to an extent clearly unreasonable." State v. Gomez Garcia, 904 N.W.2d 172, 177 (Iowa 2017) (quoting State v. Wilson, 878 N.W.2d 203, 210-11 (Iowa 2016)). "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 Graber v. City of Ankeny, 616 N.W.2d 633, 638 (Iowa 2000)). "Reversal is only warranted when 'a substantial right of the party is affected.'" Mercer, ...


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