from the Iowa District Court for Harrison County, Mark J.
Jones appeals her conviction, following an Alford
plea, of first-degree arson.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Maria Ruhtenberg,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel Mullins, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
Jones appeals her conviction, following an Alford
plea,  of first-degree arson. She argues her
counsel rendered ineffective assistance in allowing her to
plead guilty absent a sufficient factual basis to support the
charge and failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment to
challenge the plea. Although Jones failed to file a motion in
arrest of judgment, she may challenge her plea through a
claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. See State v.
Weitzel, 905 N.W.2d 397, 401 (Iowa 2017). Our review of
such claims is de novo. See State v. Harris, 919
N.W.2d 753, 754 (Iowa 2018). Jones must show by a
preponderance of the evidence that (1) counsel failed to
perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted. See
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984);
State v. Harrison, 914 N.W.2d 178, 188 (Iowa 2018).
factual basis is a prerequisite to the court's acceptance
of an Alford plea. See Iowa R. Crim. P.
2.8(2)(b); State v. Schminkey, 597 N.W.2d 785, 788
(Iowa 1999). If counsel allows a defendant to plead guilty
and waives the defendant's right to file a motion in
arrest of judgment when there is an inadequate factual basis
to support the charge, counsel breaches an essential duty and
prejudice is presumed. Rhoades v. State, 848 N.W.2d
22, 29 (Iowa 2014). A factual basis exists when the record,
as a whole, discloses facts to satisfy the elements of the
crime. See State v. Finney, 834 N.W.2d 46, 62 (Iowa
2013). "The record does not need to show the totality of
evidence necessary to support a guilty conviction, but it
need only demonstrate facts that support the offense."
State v. Ortiz, 789 N.W.2d 761, 768 (Iowa 2010).
crime of arson in the first degree consists of the following
elements: (1) The defendant either (a) caused a fire or
explosion or (b) placed any burning or combustible material
or any incendiary or explosive device or material in or near
any property; (2) the defendant either (a) intended to
destroy or damage such property or (b) knew such property
would probably be destroyed or damaged; and (3) the presence
of one or more persons could be reasonably anticipated in or
near the subject property. See Iowa Code
§§ 712.1(1), .2 (2017).
minutes of evidence reveal the following facts. On or about
November 4, 2017, a fire occurred at an occupied apartment
and business building in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Officer
Dezeeuw was on routine patrol at 12:30 p.m. when he was
notified of the fire. Upon his arrival, he noticed smoke and
flames emanating from the structure's second-floor
apartments. Fire agencies responded and extinguished the
fire. The fire started in a second-floor entryway between two
nearby apartments, one being occupied by Jamie Mathis and the
other being unoccupied. Based upon his visual observations,
Officer Haken believed the fire was aided by an accelerant.
The value of the damages to the building exceeded $10, 000.
on the scene, Haken was approached by an employee of the
first-floor salon, who reported Jones came into the salon,
"grabbed a handful of newspapers and walked out."
The employee reported she smelled smoke within ten to fifteen
minutes after Jones left the salon. Another witness reported
to law enforcement he observed smoke and flames coming from
the structure's second floor as he was driving by. This
witness initially observed that the exterior door leading to
the stairs to the second floor was open but when he drove by
again moments later, he observed Jones walk down the stairs,
exit and close the door, and then leave the scene on foot.
Another witness reported that Jones had recently indicated to
her that she was upset with her roommate, Mathis, for several
p.m., Dezeeuw reported to nearby railroad tracks in response
to a report from railroad employees regarding a female
walking on the tracks. Dezeeuw located Jones and arrested her
for trespass. Dezeeuw knew Jones to commonly reside in the
building in which the fire started and questioned whether she
was aware of the fire. Jones simply advised she did not live
there. While transporting Jones to jail, Dezeeuw noticed
Jones smelled of smoke, not like "cigarette smoke,"
but instead like "campfire smoke." Later, before
interviewing Jones, Haken retrieved her clothes from the
inmate property room, on which he detected the odors of smoke
and an ignitable liquid.
minutes of evidence make clear that someone engaged in
conduct amounting to arson in the first degree. The only
question is whether the minutes demonstrate facts that
support a conclusion that Jones was that someone. See
Ortiz, 789 N.W.2d at 768. Upon our review, we answer
that question in the affirmative. Jones had recently
indicated her frustration and disdain for Mathis, her
roommate. An accelerant-aided fire was started just outside
of Mathis's apartment. Shortly before the fire, Jones
retrieved "a handful of newspapers" from the nearby
salon. After the fire started, Jones was seen exiting the
area where the fire commenced, shutting the door behind her,
and then leaving on foot. Jones was located nearby. Dezeeuw
knew Jones to commonly reside in the building, but when
confronted about her knowledge of the fire, she denied living
there. Dezeeuw smelled smoke on Jones's person, and Haken
detected the odors of smoke and an ignitable liquid on
plea to arson in the first degree enjoys a factual basis.
Consequently, we conclude counsel did not render ineffective
assistance in allowing her to plead guilty or in failing to
challenge the plea by way of ...