from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Sean W.
McPartland and Mary E. Chicchelly (sentencing), Judges.
Foster appeals his conviction of assault causing bodily
L. Williams of Williams Law Office, PLLC, Cedar Rapids, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Foster entered an Alford plea to assault causing
bodily injury (domestic abuse) (strangulation), in violation
of Iowa Code section 708.2A(1) and (5) (2017). The district
court determined the plea was "knowingly and
intelligently made" and was supported by "a factual
basis." The court adjudged Foster guilty and sentenced
him to a prison term not exceeding five years. The court also
entered a five-year "sentencing no contact order"
prohibiting "any contact with the protected party."
appeal, Foster contends (1) his plea attorney was ineffective
in failing to challenge the factual basis and voluntariness
of the plea and (2) the district court abused its discretion
in sentencing him to prison.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
the defendant fails to file a motion in arrest of judgment
after the court has informed the defendant of his or her
obligation to do so, he or she cannot directly appeal from
the guilty plea" but "can challenge the plea under
the rubric of ineffective assistance of counsel."
State v. Weitzel, 905 N.W.2d 397, 401 (Iowa
2017). Foster was properly advised of his obligation to file
a motion in arrest of judgment if he wished to challenge the
plea. He did not file a motion. Accordingly, he concedes his
challenge to the factual basis and voluntariness of his plea
must be raised under an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel
rubric. To prevail, Foster must establish deficient
performance and prejudice. Strickland v. Washington,
466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).
argues he "struggled to understand exactly what charge
he was entering a plea to and what facts the State would be
required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to
sustain a guilty verdict." He characterizes the argument
as a challenge to the factual basis for the plea. "Where
a factual basis for a charge does not exist, and trial
counsel allows the defendant to plead guilty anyway, counsel
has failed to perform an essential duty." State v.
Nall, 894 N.W.2d 514, 525 (Iowa 2017) (citation
omitted). "Prejudice is inherent in such a case."
Id. (citation omitted).
charge to which Foster entered an Alford plea
required a showing of "a domestic abuse assault
committed by knowingly impeding the normal breathing or
circulation of the blood of another by applying pressure to
the throat or neck of the other person or by obstructing the
nose or mouth of the other person, and causing bodily
injury." Iowa Code § 708.2A(5). At the plea
hearing, the prosecutor stated she was prepared to prove the
charge in the following way:
[H]aving [Foster's wife] and multiple members of the
Cedar Rapids Police Department as well as medical experts
from St. Luke's Hospital testify that, on or about
February 21, 2017, the defendant was at his home with . . .
his wife, . . . that the defendant then assaulted her by
holding her down on the couch and pulling her hair in front
of their twin daughters[, ] . . . that the defendant
continued assaulting her ...