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Jefferson v. Iowa District Court For Scott County

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 12, 2019

MICHAEL JEFFERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR SCOTT COUNTY, Defendant.

          On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals Certiorari to the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Marlita A. Greve, Judge.

         The plaintiff seeks further review of a court of appeals decision upholding the district court denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence and his application for appointment of counsel.

          Les M. Blair III (until withdrawal) of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, then Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for plaintiff.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, and Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, for defendant.

          CHRISTENSEN, JUSTICE.

         A defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. He applied for appointment of counsel. The district court not only denied appointment of counsel, but also summarily dismissed his motion. The defendant filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The court of appeals annulled the writ. On further review, we find Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.28(1) requires the court to appoint counsel when an indigent defendant files a motion to correct illegal sentence under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24(1). Therefore, we sustain the writ and remand the case for appointment of counsel.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In 2007, Michael Jefferson, then twenty-one years old, engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact with a fourteen-year-old female in a Davenport motel alongside another adult male, Arnold Grice. Jefferson forced the victim to have sexual intercourse with him against her will by placing his penis into her vagina while Grice forced his penis into the victim's mouth. During this time, the victim was under the influence of cocaine and alcohol. The victim later identified Grice from a photographic line-up, and Grice's girlfriend implicated Jefferson based on admissions made to her. Upon further investigation, law enforcement was able to lift Jefferson's fingerprints from a condom wrapper found in the motel room. Consequently, the state charged Jefferson with sexual abuse in the second degree in violation of Iowa Code section 709.3 (2007), a class "B" felony, and sexual abuse in the third degree in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4(2)(c)(4), a class "C" felony.

         Jefferson entered into a plea agreement in which he pled guilty to third-degree sexual abuse based on his sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old while he was twenty-one years old. As part of the plea agreement, Jefferson agreed to testify against Grice, and the state agreed to dismiss the charge of second-degree sexual abuse against Jefferson, file no additional charges, and make no sentencing recommendation. In conditionally accepting Jefferson's guilty plea, the district court found that there was a factual basis to support this plea and that Jefferson entered into the plea knowingly and voluntarily.

         Jefferson subsequently filed a timely motion in arrest of judgment seeking permission to withdraw his guilty plea based on his alleged innocence, fear of further prosecution due to his inadequate testimony against Grice, and his belief that the district court failed to properly inform him of the duration he would spend on the sex offender registry. The district court denied Jefferson's motion. The court of appeals affirmed Jefferson's conviction but vacated his sentence and remanded for resentencing based on the state's unauthorized sentencing recommendation in breach of the plea agreement. Jefferson later unsuccessfully raised similar claims in a postconviction-relief action.

         The district court sentenced Jefferson to an indefinite term of imprisonment not to exceed ten years and ordered his placement on the sex offender registry for third-degree sexual abuse in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4. The district court also imposed a special lifetime sentence pursuant to Iowa Code section 903B.1, committing Jefferson into the custody of the director of the Iowa Department of Corrections with parole eligibility as set forth in chapter 906. Approximately two years after Jefferson was discharged from prison, the board of parole filed a notice of parole violation claiming Jefferson violated three conditions of parole. The violations alleged Jefferson provided false information to the sex offender registry, thereby failing to obey all laws and ordinances, and Jefferson made verbal threats in a phone call to his former girlfriend. Following a parole revocation hearing, a parole judge found the violations were correct, revoked Jefferson's parole, and ordered Jefferson be placed on the work release list or at the work release center in Davenport. Soon thereafter, another parole judge found Jefferson in violation of four parole conditions and ordered Jefferson to serve up to five years in prison.

         Jefferson filed a motion for correction of an illegal sentence on May 19, 2016, challenging the discharge date for his special lifetime sentence under 903B.1 and claiming an ex post facto violation. The district court denied Jefferson's motion in its entirety, explaining Jefferson's offense required "the imposition of the special sentence of lifetime parole pursuant to Iowa Code [s]ection 903B.1 . . . [and] this court has no control or authority over when Defendant is to be released or when his parole should end." Jefferson filed a second motion for correction of an illegal sentence on August 9, 2016, maintaining his lifetime special sentence was unconstitutionally vague and the result of an illegal bill of attainder in violation of the United States and Iowa Constitutions. Moreover, Jefferson's second motion claimed the lifetime special sentence violated equal protection; the separation of powers doctrine; his constitutional rights to freedom of association, to marry and have children, to be free from bodily restraint, and to travel; as well as his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Jefferson also filed an application for appointment of counsel on August 9, 2016.

         The district court denied Jefferson's second motion for correction of an illegal sentence "for all the same reasons" the district court denied his first motion for correction of an illegal sentence. The district court also denied Jefferson's motion to have counsel appointed. Prior to receiving this denial, Jefferson mailed a motion to amend original filing of correction of sentence that raised additional constitutional violations, including a claim that his special lifetime sentence violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the United States and Iowa Constitutions. The district court denied this motion, noting it was "denied for all of the same reasons the previous two motions were denied."

         Jefferson filed a petition for writ of certiorari followed by a notice of appeal from the district court's denial of his second motion to correct an illegal sentence "and from all adverse rulings and orders inhering therein." We denied Jefferson's petition for writ of certiorari, noting he had a "related appeal still ...


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