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State v. Keochai

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRIS SAMART KEOCHAI, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, James C. Ellefson, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his sentence for lascivious acts with a child. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Chris Samart Keochai appeals the prison sentence imposed following his guilty plea to lascivious acts with a child. He contends the sentencing court failed to exercise its discretion by not considering the options of a deferred judgment or a deferred sentence. Because Keochai was not eligible for a deferred judgment and the court was not required to expressly reject a deferred sentence, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         The State charged Keochai with two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, a class "B" felony, alleging he repeatedly committed a sex act upon a child under the age of twelve. Keochai reached a plea bargain with the State. He agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of lascivious acts with a child, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.8(1)(a) (2015), in return for the State dismissing the second count of the trial information.

         Under the agreement, the State would recommend an indeterminate term of ten years in prison; a fine of $1000 plus surcharges; payment of court costs, attorney fees, and victim restitution; a special sentence under Iowa Code section 903B.1; registry as a sex offender pursuant to Iowa Code section 692A.106; a psychosexual evaluation and successful completion of Iowa Sex Offender Treatment program; and a no-contact order with the victim and his family. Keochai was "free to make his own recommendations at the time of sentencing with the exception of not being able to request a deferred judgment."

         As a factual basis for the guilty plea, twenty-two-year-old Keochai admitted "fondling" the penis of his ten-year-old cousin.

          At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor recommended Keochai serve a prison term. Keochai requested a suspended sentence and probation instead of incarceration. He emphasized his employment, family support, lack of criminal history, and low risk of reoffending according to a psychosexual assessment.

         The sentencing judge agonized over the decision whether to send Keochai to prison. The judge told Keochai he had given "a great deal of thought" to the appropriate sentence and credited defense counsel's "excellent" argument for probation, describing the recommendation as "a serious one that weighs heavily on me." But the sentencing court identified two facts that most stood out-"the familial relationship between you and the victim and the age of the victim." The court decided Keochai's abuse of that ...


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