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State v. Cooper

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 26, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT ANTHONY COOPER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Odell G. McGhee II, District Associate Judge.

         Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence after pleading guilty to fourth-degree theft.

          Jessica Maffitt of Benzoni Law Office, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          VOGEL, JUDGE.

         Robert Cooper appeals his conviction and sentence after he entered into an Alford[1] plea for fourth-degree theft. First, Cooper claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his counsel allowed him to enter into the Alford plea even though there was no factual basis for the plea. Second, Cooper argues that the district court erred by accepting the plea due to the lack of factual basis. We find there was factual basis in the record to support the plea and therefore the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim fails and the district court did not err by accepting the plea.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On August 6, 2017, H.B. left a black Samsung Galaxy S5 cellphone in an unlocked vehicle, which was parked in a parking lot, while he went to work. H.B. left the vehicle unattended between 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. When H.B. returned to the vehicle, the cellphone was no longer inside. H.B. suspected that the cellphone was lost until his stepfather received several calls from the cellphone by an anonymous person who would not speak.

         On November 10, law enforcement received a call from a company that processes used electronics stating they had received a stolen cellphone notification for a phone deposited into a kiosk located inside a Wal-Mart in Altoona.[2] A Wal-Mart employee told law enforcement that the cellphone was deposited in the kiosk on October 7. The employee also disclosed that when a person deposits a cellphone into the kiosk, that person must provide their information and a photograph, and the cellphone is held for thirty days before being transferred to another company that will resell the cellphone. Wal-Mart provided law enforcement with a video of the person depositing the cellphone in the kiosk. Based on this information, law enforcement identified Robert Cooper as the person who deposited the cellphone.

         Law enforcement contacted Cooper about the cellphone. Cooper stated that he fixes cellphones and he frequently deposits cellphones in the kiosk in exchange for cash. He also stated that he purchases used cellphones from Goodwill and other sources. At first, Cooper told law enforcement that he was not sure how he obtained the specific cellphone because he purchases many used cellphones and had multiple Samsung Galaxy S5 phones at one point. Later, Cooper stated that he remembered purchasing a bin at Goodwill that contained various items, including two Samsung Galaxy S5 cellphones. He also said that he did have the receipt, but the receipt only indicated that he purchased a bin from Goodwill; specific items were not listed on the receipt. Law enforcement spoke with the Goodwill store that Cooper identified, and an employee informed them that Goodwill store does not sell or recycle cellphones and it would be rare for them to miss a cellphone when organizing items for sale.

         On November 28, Cooper was arrested for third-degree theft.[3] On January 18, 2018, Cooper entered into an Alford plea to a lesser-included offense, theft in the fourth-degree.[4] Cooper appeals his conviction and sentence, asserting his counsel was ineffective for allowing him to enter into the plea without a factual basis and the district court erred in accepting the plea without a factual basis.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review the claim of a lack of factual basis to an Alford plea for the correction of errors at law. State v. Keene, 630 N.W.2d 579, 581 (Iowa 2001); State v. Martin, 778 N.W.2d 201, 202 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009). However, ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims are reviewed de novo, and this would include such ...


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