from the Iowa District Court for Grundy County, Joel A.
defendant challenges his convictions and sentences for three
counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count of
lascivious conduct with a minor.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J., Tabor, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]
Knudsen challenges his convictions and sentences for three
counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count of
lascivious conduct with a minor. Knudsen challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support one of his convictions
for sexual abuse in the third degree, claims the court
wrongly applied the rape-shield law to prevent the admission
of evidence of prior allegations of sexual abuse made by the
complaining witnesses, and maintains the court abused its
discretion in preventing the defense's expert from
testifying that three-way sexual abuse involving the mother
is rare. He also maintains he did not knowingly and
voluntarily enter into the stipulation that he was subject to
the sentencing enhancements.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
was charged by trial information with three counts of sexual
abuse in the third degree (counts I, II, and III) and one
count of lascivious conduct with a minor (count IV). Each of
the three counts of sexual abuse involved the same minor
child, A.M., who lived in the same home as Knudsen. The dates
the events were alleged to have occurred and A.M.'s age
at the time of the events differed. In count IV, it was
alleged that between September 8, 2009 and August 2012,
Knudsen forced, persuaded, or coerced A.L., a minor who
Knudsen was in a position of authority over, to disrobe or
partially disrobe for the purpose of satisfying at least one
of their sexual desires. For sentencing-enhancement purposes,
it was additionally alleged that Knudsen had been previously
convicted of sexual abuse.
up to the jury trial, the State filed a motion to strike
certain defense witnesses and a motion in limine. In its
motion to strike witnesses, the State asked the court to
prevent Hollinda Wakefield from testifying at trial,
maintaining that based on the questions asked of Wakefield in
her deposition, Knudsen "clearly . . . intends to call
this witness solely to comment on the credibility of the
witnesses through expert testimony." In his response to
the State's motion, Knudsen maintained he wanted to call
Wakefield as an expert in the field of child sexual abuse and
claimed she would testify to a number of things, including
"how unusual it would be for a mother to be involved in
a three way sexual relationship with her daughter and
motion in limine, the State asked the court to direct the
defense not to refer at any stage of the trial to "[a]ny
evidence regarding either of the victims' past sexual
history or any other matters in violation of Iowa Rule of
Evidence 5.412," including A.M.'s "prior sexual
abuse by other family members." Knudsen responded:
The defense intends to explore the past sexual assaults of
the two alleged victims in this case. The defense does not
intend to explore the details of the assaults, or to violate
the tenants of the rape/shield laws, but does intend to ask
each alleged victim the following:
a. Were you sexually assaulted in the past?
b. Did this sexual assault occur while Paul Knudsen was
married to your mother?
c. Who committed the sexual assault?
d. Did you report the sexual assault to your mother and
e. Did they support you in your allegations?
f. Did they report your allegations to law enforcement?
g. Was the perpetrator prosecuted?
h. Was the perpetrator convicted?
i. Were you aware of the punishment awarded the perpetrator?
j. At the time you made allegations against the prior
perpetrators, did you make any accusations against either
your mother or [Knudsen]?
k. Have you made any other allegations of sexual abuse since
the allegations against Paul Knudsen?
l. Did those allegations result in charges against these
joint hearing on the pretrial motions, the court issued a
written ruling in which the court found "Iowa Rule of
Evidence 5.412, otherwise known as the rape shield law, to be
dispositive" on the issue of whether Knudsen could ask
the complaining witnesses about their experiences involving
prior sexual abuse by family members. In sustaining the
State's motion in limine, the court "considered the
arguments and proposed evidence by the defense, and finds,
however relevant, that the probative value of such evidence
fails to outweigh the danger of unfair prejudice and as such
the evidence is not admissible." Regarding the
State's motion to strike defense witness Wakefield, the
court did not prevent the witness from testifying completely
but did outline areas about which Wakefield was prevented
from testifying. The court ruled that Wakefield could not
testify that a three-way sexual encounter involving a mother,
her daughter, and Knudsen would be "unusual" or
First and foremost, with the evidence presented or arguments
of counsel thus far, the Court finds the witness lacks any
expertise in her opinion relating to the purported testimony.
Even if qualified as an expert in the area in question, the
Court does not find any testimony from the witness to be
permissible, nor does it find any such testimony would aid
the finder of fact in this matter. Consequently, the
[S]tate's motion relating to any questions of that nature
shall be sustained.
jury trial took place over several days in February 2017.
During the testimony of the nurse who performed a
sexual-assault examination on A.M., the nurse was asked what
type of injuries she is looking for during the exam. She
Well, you know, if there is any old injury that may have
healed. Sometimes you'll see kind of some scarring in
different areas. You may see in the hymen there may be a
healed we call it a transection or which is where the hymen
may have been torn and then healed but that split is still
You may have what's called a cleft, which is kind of
where it's been worn away but it's not necessarily
been completely split. You may have some-if it's an acute
type of thing you may see some bleeding, you may see some
abrasions, which is kind of a roughening of the skin where
you might have some redness or some swelling, or you might
even see some bruising depending on what happened. So those
are all the kinds of things that we're looking for when
we're doing that.
asked if she "note[d] anything that may be considered an
injury" while examining A.M., the nurse testified,
"Yes. . . . I described it as a cleft." The State
admitted into evidence and published to the jury four
pictures of A.M.'s hymen that were taken during the
physical exam. The nurse also opined that the cleft could be
"normal for that person's body to look like
that"-a "normal variation."
the nurse's testimony, the court reconsidered its prior
ruling on the State's motion in limine regarding whether
the defense could mention or ask questions about prior sexual
abuse A.M. had ...