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State v. Ueligger

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEREK E. UELIGGER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Adair County, Martha L. Mertz (plea) and Terry R. Rickers (sentencing), Judges.

         Derek Ueligger appeals his sentences for vehicular homicide.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kelli A. Huser, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Derek E. Ueligger appeals his sentences for two counts of vehicular homicide. On appeal, Ueligger contends his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to object to the inclusion of three of the victim impact statements submitted. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On November 2, 2016, Ueligger operated a vehicle while under the influence of multiple controlled substances. Ueligger's vehicle crossed the center line on a highway and struck a vehicle carrying four women. Two women, Dawn Christensen and Norma Caltrader, died as a result of the accident. The other two women, Marilyn Ehrsam and Betty Schultz, were seriously injured.

         On February 14, 2017, the State charged Ueligger with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of serious injury by motor vehicle, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.6A and 321J.2(1) (2016).

         In July, Ueligger and the State entered into a plea agreement where Ueligger would plead guilty to the two vehicular homicide counts and the State would dismiss the serious injury by motor vehicle charges. The parties did not reach an agreement as to sentencing, leaving them free to argue for concurrent or consecutive sentences. On August 21, Ueligger pled guilty to the two vehicular homicide charges as agreed and admitted to driving under the influence of four different types of controlled substances.

         The sentencing hearing was held October 19. Twelve victim impact statements, both oral and written, were provided to the sentencing court. Two of these statements were from Ehrsam and Schultz. A third statement came from Helen Nevins, the cousin of one of the deceased victims. The court sentenced Ueligger to two consecutive twenty-five-year terms of imprisonment and to pay restitution to all individuals involved. The remaining two counts were ordered to be dismissed if the pleas were not appealed. Ueligger appeals his sentence only.

         II. Standard of Review

         Ueligger claims he was provided ineffective assistance of counsel at his sentencing. Claims of ineffective assistance are generally preserved for postconviction relief, but we will consider them on direct appeal if the record is adequate. State v. Lopez, 872 N.W.2d 159, 169 (Iowa 2015). Because ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims implicate ...


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