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State v. Lamb

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CONNELL LAMB, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

         Connell Lamb appeals his sentences for child endangerment and domestic abuse causing bodily injury.

          Raya D. Dimitrova of Carr Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Connell Lamb appeals his sentences for child endangerment and domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. Lamb claims the State failed to adhere to the terms of the plea agreement at sentencing and the district court abused its discretion in sentencing. We find the State breached the plea agreement in its sentencing recommendation and Lamb's counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the breach. We vacate Lamb's sentences and remand for resentencing before another judge.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On May 9, 2017, Lamb had an altercation with his girlfriend, then her sister who was holding his child at the time. As a result of the altercation, the girlfriend sustained a back injury, and the child's head struck a wall causing a head injury. The State charged Lamb with child endangerment, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6 (2017), and domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury second offense, in violation of section 708.2A(3)(b).

         On October 3, the day trial was to begin, the State made a plea offer to Lamb. After a brief recess to confer with his counsel, Lamb entered into a limited plea agreement with the State. Lamb entered Alford guilty pleas to both counts.[1]The State agreed to dismiss a separate misdemeanor charge as well as recommend suspended sentences, fines, and surcharges, and completion of a domestic-abuse-prevention course. Lamb intended to request a deferred judgment. The only difference between the State's offer and the limited plea agreement was Lamb entered an Alford guilty plea rather than a standard guilty plea.

         At sentencing, the State told the court no plea agreement had been reached and advocated prison terms for each count. Lamb's counsel requested a deferred judgment and noted the State's change in position since the plea had been entered. Counsel did not object or tell the court the State was breaching the plea agreement. Lamb was sentenced to concurrent terms of incarceration of five years and two years as the State recommended. Lamb appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. Ennenga v. State, 812 N.W.2d 696, 701 (Iowa 2012). To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show (1) the attorney failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted. State v. Carroll, 767 N.W.2d 638, 641 (Iowa 2009). Counsel is presumed competent, and a defendant must show by a preponderance of evidence that counsel's performance did not meet an objective standard of reasonableness. State v. Ondayog, 722 N.W.2d 778, 785 (Iowa 2006).

         If a sentence is within the statutory limits, we review a district court's sentencing decision for an abuse of discretion. State v. Seats, 865 N.W.2d 545, 552 (Iowa 2015). "Thus, our task on appeal is not to second-guess the decision made by the district court, but to determine ...


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