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State v. Spaans

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MATTHEW GENE SPAANS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, Tod J. Deck, Judge.

         A criminal defendant appeals his sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of child endangerment. SENTENCES VACATED AND REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Katie Krickbaum, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Matthew Spaans appeals his sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of child endangerment. He contends he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his plea counsel failed to object to the State's alleged breach of the plea agreement. He also contends the district court considered improper factors during sentencing. Spaans lastly challenges a portion of the sentencing order related to appellate attorney fees. We conclude an improper sentencing factor was considered, and accordingly, we vacate the defendant's sentences and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On February 27, 2017, Spaans was charged with seven counts of child endangerment and seven counts of assault causing bodily injury or mental illness. The State amended the trial information multiple times, and the number and nature of charges against Spaans increased. Ultimately, Spaans reached an agreement to plead guilty to four counts of child endangerment, in violation of Iowa Code sections 726.6(1)(a), (c) and 726.6(7) (2017). Section 726.6(1)(b) was also cited in the trial information, but there were no averments in the trial information supporting a violation of this alternative.

         On February 20, 2018, Spaans filed a written guilty plea, and the parties filed a written plea agreement. The written guilty plea did not list the code provisions to which Spaans was pleading guilty, nor did it go into detail of the factual basis for his guilty plea. However, the written plea agreement did recite the language used in code provisions. The written plea agreement simply stated, "As a parent, guardian, or person having custody or control over a child under the age of [fourteen], I did knowingly act in a manner that created a substantial risk to a child's physical, mental, or emotional health or safety."

         In his written guilty plea, Spaans agreed "that the court may review and rely upon the minutes of testimony as additional factual support for my guilty plea." However, during the plea colloquy, the court inquired concerning the use of the minutes of testimony, and Spaans's counsel clarified the court could not consider the allegations in the minutes of testimony concerning any physical injuries to the children, as the pleas did not encompass that element.

         The parties agreed each would make their own sentencing recommendations. The State would recommend "a total indeterminate term not to exceed four (4) years; or in the alternative, a jail term to be determined by the court" and a suspended fine. Prior to sentencing, the State filed a sentencing memorandum, which included the facts the State thought supported the guilty plea and included photographs showing the children victims' injuries. Both children filed victim impact statements.

         At the April 2, 2018 sentencing hearing, the court asked the State to summarize the parties' agreement. Spaans and his counsel agreed they had the same understanding of the parties' plea agreement as the State's summary. The terms recited were consistent with the written plea agreement. Spaans was asked whether he objected to the State's most recent amendment to the trial information-which was made to match the ...


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