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State v. Jacobson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
NATHAN D. JACOBSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, DeDra Schroeder, Judge.

         The defendant appeals his sentence for child endangerment causing bodily injury following his plea of guilty.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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


         Nathan Jacobson pleaded guilty to child endangerment causing bodily injury. The district court sentenced him to an indeterminate five-year prison term. Jacobson contests his prison sentence on four grounds: (1) the district court violated his due process rights by considering a risk-assessment tool; (2) the court abused its discretion by considering the sentencing recommendation in the presentence investigation (PSI) report; (3) the court abused its discretion by failing to consider mitigating features of youth when sentencing Jacobson, who was seventeen years old when he committed the crime; and (4) the sentencing order improperly assessed court costs and jail fees.

         Those first and second grounds for relief are derailed by our supreme court's recent decision in State v. Headley, 926 N.W.2d 545, 549-50 (Iowa 2019) (deciding the district court could consider risk-assessment tools and sentencing recommendations contained in a PSI when defense did not object to either matter at the sentencing hearing). On the third ground, we find no abuse of discretion in the sentencing court's consideration of Jacobson's youth. Jacobson may raise his alternative claim that trial counsel failed to effectively argue those mitigating factors in a postconviction-relief action. On the fourth ground, applying State v. Albright, 925 N.W.2d 144, 150 (Iowa 2019), we vacate the restitution order and remand for the district court to receive the final restitution plan before determining Jacobson's reasonable ability to pay.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         At his guilty plea hearing, Jacobson admitted he "slapped" a child in his care and "caused a bruise." He also acknowledged the court could look to the minutes of testimony to establish a factual basis for his guilty plea. According to the minutes, Jacobson was caring for his girlfriend's two-month-old son, E.J., when he called for an ambulance. Jacobson told the first responders E.J. had fallen and was not breathing. But they saw heavy bruising to the infant's face "consistent with child abuse." The ambulance took E.J. to the emergency room at the Floyd County Medical Center, where doctors decided the severity of his injuries required transfer to University Hospitals in Iowa City. The hospital reported E.J. suffered an acute subdural hematoma. He had visible bruising on his left cheek, consistent with a hand print, as well as a linear bruise across his lower lip. The infant also suffered extensive diffuse multi-layer retinal hemorrhages.

         The State originally charged Jacobson with child endangerment resulting in serious injury, a class "C" felony. After negotiations, Jacobson accepted the State's offer to plead guilty to child endangerment resulting in bodily injury, a class "D" felony. Each side was free to argue for any available sentencing option.

         At sentencing, the State lobbied for an indeterminate five-year prison term. Jacobson asked for a deferred judgment. In his allocution, Jacobson maintained "there was an accident" during which the baby fell out of his arms to the floor and stopped breathing. He told the court: "I slapped him with a desire to see him breathe again. It was a mistake, and I regret it very much." The district court imposed a prison sentence. Jacobson now appeals.[1]

         II. Scope and Standards of Review

         When a sentence falls within statutory limits, we review challenges for an abuse of the district court's discretion. Headley, 926 N.W.2d at 549. We will find an abuse only if that court exercises its discretion on grounds or for reasons that are "clearly untenable or unreasonable." Id. A ground or reason fits that description "when based on an erroneous application of the law." Id. We engage in a de novo review of constitutional claims, like due process and ineffective assistance of counsel. More v. State, 880 ...

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