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Bennett v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

CARL JULIUS BENNETT, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge.

         Carl Bennett appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Kevin Hobbs, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Greer, JJ.

          GREER, Judge.

         Carl Bennett appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR), arguing he is innocent and that his trial counsel was ineffective. After reviewing the record, we agree with the district court that there is overwhelming evidence of Bennett's guilt and that he did not prove his attorney was ineffective. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         A series of Carl Bennett's bad decisions brings us to this appeal. On May 8, 2015, Bennett's friend and neighbor, T.B., gave him a ride home from work. During the ride, Bennett allegedly became angry at T.B., punched her in the face, and told her he was going to steal her 2006 Saturn Vue. When they arrived at their apartment complex, Bennett told T.B. to exit the vehicle. T.B. complied, and Bennett drove off with the vehicle.

         The next day, Bennett allegedly began driving the Vue back and forth in the apartment complex parking lot while taunting T.B. over the phone. Candidly, he admits he intentionally rammed the Vue into a 1998 Honda Prelude in the lot, damaging both vehicles. Likewise, T.B. and three other residents of the apartment complex watched Bennett ram the Prelude. To avoid the consequences of his behavior, Bennett hid in the closet of the apartment building where he was staying with his girlfriend, K.A. Police arrived shortly after and found Bennett. During the struggle with the officers, and at Bennett's request, K.A. recorded part of the interaction on her cell phone. At the direction of the officers, she provided this video to police. In the end, the officers secured and arrested Bennett.

         The State charged Bennett with five counts arising out of the events on May 8 and 9.[1] These charges carried a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a mandatory minimum of seven years.

         While the first criminal case was pending, Bennett experienced yet another encounter with law enforcement. On November 5, police responded to a shots-fired call. Officers observed Bennett nearby and tried to speak with him. Ignoring their questions and directives, Bennett remained on his cell phone. As one officer reached for Bennett's phone, a struggle ensued. In the fray, Bennett struck an officer twice with a closed fist. As he threatened and kicked at other officers, they physically restrained him. Afterward, Bennett began complaining about injuries, and the officers called medics to respond. While waiting for the medics, Bennett tried to bite and kick the officers and made numerous threats. When medics sought to treat him, Bennett kicked one of the medics, spat on an officer in the ambulance, and threatened to kill other officers. One officer suffered a broken finger during this incident.

         The State charged Bennett with seven counts following the November 5 incident.[2] These charges carried a maximum sentence of seventeen years in prison.

         With both criminal cases pending, Bennett accepted a plea agreement in February 2016. As for the May incident, Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent, assault causing bodily injury, criminal mischief in the second degree, and assault on a police officer causing injury. To resolve the November incident, Bennett pleaded guilty to two counts of assault on a police officer with intent to inflict serious injury and two counts of assault on a health care provider.

         During the plea colloquy, the court reviewed: (1) each count of the plea agreement, (2) the factual basis for each act, (3) the rights Bennett waived by pleading, (4) Bennett's satisfaction with his attorney, and (5) extensive details about Bennett's mental health. In response to the court's inquiry, Bennett confirmed his understanding of these matters and described his actions related to each charge. Accordingly, the court accepted the guilty plea, and because Bennett waived the presentence investigation report and his right to file a motion in arrest of judgment, sentencing followed. As a result, the court sentenced Bennett to a total term not to exceed fifteen years in prison.

         On December 14, Bennett applied for PCR, amended by his appointed postconviction counsel. In the PCR hearing, Bennett raised several complaints, not all set out in the amended application. After considering all claimed ...


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