from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Colleen
D. Weiland (plea), James M. Drew (motion for new counsel),
Gregg R. Rosenbladt (motion to withdraw guilty plea), and
Rustin T. Davenport (sentencing), Judges.
defendant who pleaded guilty now seeks a remand so he may
have a hearing on his actual-innocence claim.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Shellie L. Knipfer,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
Bendickson pleaded guilty to first-degree theft and
third-degree burglary. Before the district court imposed a
sentence, Bendickson moved to withdraw those pleas. The
district court denied the motion, finding Bendickson did not
show his pleas were unknowing or involuntary. On appeal,
Bendickson requests a remand to show he is "actually
innocent" of theft and burglary, citing the intervening
decision in Schmidt v. State, 909 N.W.2d 778, 789
(Iowa 2018). Because Schmidt held "convicted
defendants can attack their pleas when claiming actual
innocence even if the attack is extrinsic to the pleas,"
we agree a remand is appropriate. Id. We
conditionally affirm Bendickson's convictions and remand
for a hearing on his preserved freestanding claim of actual
Facts and Prior Proceedings
to the minutes of testimony, a Mason City couple reported
$80, 000 worth of jewelry stolen from their home in late
March 2017. Debra Ewing later told investigators she saw
Jason Bendickson leave a Mason City home "with a
'lot' of jewelry." In early April, Bendickson
and Ewing tried to sell a $30, 000 diamond ring to Pawn
America in Roseville, Minnesota. Investigators discovered the
hocked ring was one of the stolen items.
State charged Bendickson with theft in the first degree and
burglary in the third degree. Both felony charges carried
September 28, 2017, Bendickson pleaded guilty to the charged
offenses. In return, the State dismissed the habitual
offender enhancements. But a few days later, on October 5,
Bendickson sent a handwritten letter to Judge Drew, alleging
a "serious problem" with his guilty pleas and
asserting he was having "a hard time" with his plea
deal. Five days later, Bendickson sent a handwritten motion
to Judge Weiland alleging he was not receiving legal papers
from his attorneys and asking to subpoena all evidence in his
case. The district court held a hearing on October 17. At
that hearing, Bendickson claimed "unethical things"
were going on with his attorneys and professed he did not
"want to plead to the felonies." He told the court:
I'm not wanting to really take this. He tells me they got
still shots of me and the codefendant walked up and knocked
on the door. I knew right away it was a lie because I was
told the court he intended to move to withdraw his guilty
plea, but had not done so yet. The court declined to appoint
October 19, Bendickson-through counsel-moved to withdraw his
guilty pleas. The motion began: "The Defendant believes
that the following information is sufficient to demonstrate
his innocence in this case and further justifies him
withdrawing his guilty plea." It then listed six
different points attacking the State's evidence. The
motion alleged "some of the above evidentiary items the
defendant was aware of prior to his entering his guilty plea
and some of them he was not." It also explained
"after learning of some of the above items,"
Bendickson "was unclear as to the procedure to be
used" to undo his pleas. The State resisted
Bendickson's motion to withdraw his pleas. The resistance
addressed the sufficiency of the State's evidence, but
emphasized the guilty plea was knowing and voluntary.
considering Bendickson's motion to withdraw his guilty
pleas, the district court allowed attorney F. David Eastman
to stop representing Bendickson based on an alleged conflict
of interest. ...