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State v. Bright

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JOSEPH BRIGHT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert J. Blink, Judge.

         Joseph Bright appeals from a conviction of indecent exposure. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Maria L. Ruhtenberg, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl A. Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         Joseph Bright appeals from his conviction for indecent exposure, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.9 (2016), following a jury trial. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that his exposure of his erect penis was done with the specific intent to arouse or satisfy his sexual desire. He also asserts trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the admission of the video recording of Bright's statements to police. We find substantial evidence supports the conviction, and we preserve Bright's ineffectiveness claim for possible postconviction proceedings.

         I. Background Facts.

         On May 18, 2016, Catherine Leever went to Staples for office supplies. She pulled into a parking space and noticed a man (later identified as Joseph Bright) sitting in his car in the spot next to her car on the passenger side. She shopped in the store for approximately thirty to forty minutes. When she returned to her car, Bright's car was now parked on the driver's side of her car and was parked close enough that she was "taken aback" and "a little fearful." Leever decided to enter her car from the passenger side. As she loaded her packages into her car, she glanced out the driver's-side window to Bright's car where she saw him "laying back in his car with his penis fully erect point to the ceiling of his car." On cross-examination, when defense counsel asked whether she saw acts of masturbation or self-gratification, Leever stated, "I saw Mr. Bright with his penis straight up in the air to the roof." All four of Bright's car windows were open and his seat was reclined. Leever was alarmed and climbed over her center console to get into the driver's seat, avoiding eye contact with Bright. She testified there were few other cars in the parking lot. She "wanted to get out of there." Leever drove to another part of the parking lot and called 9-1-1. At the dispatcher's request, Leever followed Bright for about seven or eight minutes as he left the Staples parking lot, entered a Walmart parking lot and left, turned into a gas station, and then came out of the gas station lot. During this process, Leever was able to provide the dispatcher with a partial license plate number for Bright's car. The dispatcher later informed Leever that police had Bright at a gas station.

         Police officer Mark Parks responded to a call from dispatch about a man wearing an orange shirt and a white hat and driving a dark-colored four-door sedan with a partial plate A-M-Y. Officer Parks located Bright at a gas station across from Staples. Upon questioning, Bright stated he was in the area to purchase a fish from a pet store. Bright was wearing a baggy orange t-shirt and "track suit, or sweatpant type" pants. After further questioning about his presence in the area, Bright stated his boxers were uncomfortable and he had "adjusted himself."

         Four other officers also arrived at the gas station and Bright was questioned for about forty minutes. Officer Brock Muhlbauer was another of the officers who responded to the gas station. Officer Muhlbauer

asked [Bright] what he was up to today, and he-or that day, and he said he was buying a fish at PetSmart. I asked him if he knew anything about exposing himself, and he said that he had to adjust himself in the parking lot. And I asked what he meant by that, and he said he had a wedgie, that he had to take care of that.

         Detective James Wilson questioned Bright, and Bright repeatedly denied having been in the Staples parking lot. However, he later acknowledged he "had stopped long enough to adjust himself or adjust his boxers." Then Bright explained his two parking locations to Detective Wilson, "He started to back out, realized that he still wasn't comfortable, and immediately pulled back over again." Bright acknowledged to Detective Wilson he had a partial erection. When Detective Wilson "told him it was virtually impossible for her to be able to see that he had an erection if his pants weren't down, to-at which point he finally said that, yes, they had been down maybe [two] inches."

         The video recording of Bright's interaction with the police officers was admitted into evidence. Defense counsel did not object to the recording's admissibility. In fact, defense counsel asked that the unredacted version of the recording be played in its entirety. In closing arguments, defense counsel referenced the video, noting Bright did not admit ...

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