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Leonard v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

MATTHEW ALAN LEONARD, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Mary Pat Gunderson, Judge.

         Matthew Leonard appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Mathew D. Zinkula of Booth Law Firm, Osceola, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin Cmelik, Israel Kodiaga and Kelli A. Huser (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mullins, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]

          CARR, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Matthew Leonard appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). He asserts he did not understand the consequences of his guilty plea. We find he has not shown ineffective assistance and affirm.

         "[W]e review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo." Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). "In addition, we give weight to the lower court's findings concerning witness credibility." Id. "In order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must prove: (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted." State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008). The defendant must prove both prongs by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 196; see also State v. Graves, 668 N.W.2d 860, 869 (Iowa 2003) ("A defendant's inability to prove either element is fatal.").

         Leonard was charged with two counts of robbery in the second degree and one count of forgery. See Iowa Code §§ 711.1, 711.3, 715A.2(1), 715A.2(2)(a)(3) (2013). On Friday, November 14, 2014, Leonard participated in a plea hearing on the charges. The State had agreed to recommend concurrent sentences on all charges in exchange for his guilty plea. In the hearing, he requested permission to enter his guilty plea on Monday so he could put his affairs in order over the weekend. The court agreed to accept his plea on Monday. However, the court warned him the State would be free to recommend any sentence allowed by law- including consecutive prison sentences-if he failed to return on Monday or if he engaged in additional criminal activity or used illegal substances before his next hearing.

          Leonard failed to return on Monday. A warrant was issued, and he was arrested about a week later. On December 17, he pled guilty to all three charges at a hearing. Before accepting his plea, the court engaged him in a colloquy and explained the State would be able to recommend any legal sentence including consecutive sentences totaling twenty-five years in prison. On January 29, 2015, the court sentenced him to terms of incarceration not to exceed ten years on each count of robbery and five years on the count of forgery, with the two robbery sentences run consecutively and the forgery sentence run concurrently for a total period of incarceration not to exceed twenty years.[1] On March 3, 2016, he filed his application for PCR. On July 13, 2017, the district court denied his application. He now appeals.

         Leonard argues his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to explain the consequences of his guilty plea. At the PCR hearing, he testified he repeatedly told his plea counsel he would not plead guilty if the State would not recommend concurrent sentences. The PCR court did not find this testimony credible, and we give weight to this determination. See Ledezma, 626 N.W.2d at 141. Furthermore, the court informed him of-and he acknowledged understanding-the consequences of pleading guilty without a plea agreement in each hearing. The following exchange occurred during the November 14, 2014 hearing:

THE COURT: And Mr. Leonard, I want you to understand that if you do not appear in this courtroom at 9:00 on Monday morning, that a warrant will be issued for your arrest and if you fail to appear, I think that would take care of any plea agreement you have from the state to recommend concurrent sentences. Do you understand that? THE DEFENDANT: Yes, ma'am.
Q: If . . . there was no plea agreement and you were convicted of all of these charges and they were run consecutive, you would be looking on the robbery charges of a total of twenty years with a mandatory minimum of fourteen. Do you understand that?

A: Yes, ma'am.

Q: And the forgery . . . . That would be another additional five years on the forgery charge. Do you understand that?

...


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