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State v. Lopez

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CARLOS AUGUSTO RAMIREZ LOPEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Henry W. Latham II, Judge.

         The defendant appeals his conviction for second-degree sexual abuse.

          Trey Sucher of Trey Sucher Law PLC, West Liberty, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Zachary Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Tabor, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE

         Defendant Carlos Augusto Ramirez Lopez (Lopez) appeals from his conviction following jury trial for sexual abuse in the second degree, contending the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for new trial. On our review, we find the district court did not abuse its discretion, and we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In March 2007, Lopez became acquainted with his coworker, Maria, in Postville, Iowa. Maria had two daughters from a prior relationship: N.N., born in 2001, and C.N., born in 2006. That same year Maria had separated from her former boyfriend, the father of N.N. and C.N. Over time, Lopez and Maria progressed from a coworker friendship to a romantic relationship. In 2008, Lopez traveled to Guatemala and, while he was there, Maria informed him she was pregnant with his child. In December, Maria gave birth to their daughter, A.R.

         Lopez eventually returned to the United States in 2010 and lived with Maria and her three children, including N.N. On September 22, 2011, Maria found a pair of N.N.'s shorts with white stains on them. Maria asked N.N. about the shorts. N.N. began crying and told her that while Maria was at work, Lopez had touched her breasts and vagina and he "rubbed his front part against her on her back, which hurt her." Maria then told her pastor what N.N. had told her, and the pastor called the police. When the police came to the family's home, N.N. informed them Lopez had "put his thing in her thing" and showed them a pair of black shorts that belonged to her, which later DNA testing confirmed had Lopez's sperm on them. Maria took N.N. to the doctor and had her examined. The doctor concluded the test results were normal-there were no lacerations, bruises, or tears-but this could be consistent with N.N. having been fondled.

         Based on N.N.'s report, law enforcement officers obtained a Miranda waiver and interrogated Lopez through an interpreter. During the interrogation, Lopez denied committing any sex act on N.N. After the interrogation, the police released Lopez.

         On October 5, N.N. was interviewed by a child forensic psychologist, which was video recorded. N.N. reported that while she was sleeping in her bed, Lopez came up to her and touched her private area with his hand and she told him to stop. Also in the interview, N.N. stated, "[Lopez] took his thing out" and put "his thing on her back." He asked her if he should put his "thing" in her sister (referring to C.N.), and he showed her sexually suggestive pictures of women on his phone. According to N.N., Lopez stopped when white liquid came out of his "thing."

         The State filed a complaint against Lopez in February 2015. In September 2017, a trial information was filed charging Lopez with second-degree sexual abuse. Lopez pleaded not guilty. N.N. was deposed before trial, during which she denied any sexual abuse occurred and testified she had made up the allegations.

         At trial, N.N. again testified she made up the allegations against Lopez. She explained she was mad at her mom for separating from her dad and hated Lopez for replacing her dad. She said her seventeen-year-old cousins in Mexico told her to say Lopez had sexually abused her. She claimed that at nine years old, she recognized ...


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