from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert B.
defendant appeals his convictions for willful injury causing
bodily injury, domestic abuse assault with a dangerous
weapon, first-degree harassment, child endangerment, and
false imprisonment-challenging the finding his competency was
Campbell of Dickey & Campbell Law Firm, PLC, Des Moines,
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
State charged Taner Vongsengeth Mann with five crimes
stemming from his violent attack on his girlfriend, A.V. The
district court originally found Mann incompetent to stand
trial and sent him for treatment. In this appeal, Mann
challenges the court's later determination treatment had
restored his competency. Mann alleges the court denied his
right to due process by accepting his guilty plea when he had
no "'rational' understanding of what was
happening." On our independent review of the record, we
conclude Mann failed to show he remained incompetent to stand
trial or plead guilty.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
February 2017, Mann attacked A.V. with a baseball bat. He
beat her severely in front of her four-year-old child. For a
week, he refused to let A.V. leave the apartment to seek
medical attention. A.V. suffered numerous injuries, including
broken hands, a broken nose, and loss of sight in one eye.
She eventually went to the hospital, where she was
interviewed by police.
early March 2017, the State charged Mann with willful injury
causing serious injury, domestic abuse assault with a
dangerous weapon, harassment in the first degree, child
endangerment, and false imprisonment. Mann's trial
counsel requested and obtained a mental evaluation.
Michael Huston examined Mann in late March. In his report to
the court, Dr. Huston noted Mann had been diagnosed with
bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but
had not consistently taken medication or followed up with
psychiatric treatment. Mann told Dr. Huston he had paranoid
thoughts and heard voices "telling him that
'something bad is about to happen.'" Huston
described Mann as moving slowly and appearing dazed. He found
Mann was "confused, stressed, and tense" and
"had difficulty comprehending some questions until they
were simplified and restated." Also his speech was
"disjointed and disorganized." Dr. Huston found
Mann's responses "logical, although paranoid
delusional thought was evident in several statements about
being watched when he left his house, and when talking about
his ex-girlfriend." Mann scored in the "extremely
low" range of functioning-with an IQ of 58-and had poor
insight into his mental health and legal situation. Dr.
Huston opined Mann demonstrated "moderate impairment in
ability to understand and appreciate the charge[s] against
him and his legal situation," "substantial
impairment in his ability to understand legal
proceedings," and "substantial impairment in his
ability to assist in his own defense."
district court decided Mann was unable to assist in his
defense and suspended proceedings, sending Mann to the Iowa
Medical and Classification Center for treatment to restore
his competency. Treating psychiatrist Gary Keller agreed with
Dr. Huston's diagnoses of psychotic disorder,
amphetamine-use disorder, and cannabis-use disorder. Dr.
Keller prescribed medications to treat Mann's psychiatric
thirty-day report, dated July 13, 2017, Dr. Keller told the
court Mann "did make a good recovery and he has now
completed his restoration evaluation." Dr. Keller
indicated a report from the evaluator was forthcoming and
Mann had been discharged "back into the custody of Polk
days later, the court held an unreported hearing on
Mann's competency. On the day of the hearing, July 19,
the court issued this written ruling:
Court having heard the evidence and argument of Counsel
1. By a preponderance of the evidence that the
Defendant's competency has been restored in that the
Defendant is able to appreciate the charge, understand the
proceedings and effectively assist in the Defendant's
2. The placement previously ordered in this matter should be
terminated and the criminal proceedings against the Defendant
should be reinstated.
3. Defendant is not in need of continued treatment to
court reinstated the criminal proceedings against Mann and
set a new trial date.
August 2017, the court granted a defense request to hire a
medical expert to "assist in analyzing the legal
significance of [Mann's] mental health issues as they
relate to the charges in this case."
appeared for a plea hearing on Friday, April 6, 2018.
Expressing frustration with Mann's reversals and
inconsistencies in the pretrial period, the prosecutor
We show up today, and now I'm not sure if it's
because he has no memory of the event but admits that
there's no reason to doubt what has been contained in the
minutes of testimony or the fact that he is just innocent and
knows he'll be convicted at trial.
. . . I would need to know which version it is. And to be
honest with you, this defendant does not know what he's
doing five minutes from the other. We've already gone
through this in another one of his cases . . . where we did
this cat-and-mouse game all the way up to the day of trial
where the jury was waiting upstairs.
counsel explained Mann's "desire to enter an
Alford plea is because he does not remember
having engaged in the acts that he is charged with
here." Defense counsel asked, "Do you . . . agree
that by going to trial you don't stand to benefit
anything?" Mann responded, "Well, no." Later,
the following exchange occurred:
DEFENSE COUNSEL: And you also have to admit that it is very
likely that if all of the witnesses come and testify
according to what is in here in black and white that it is
very likely that you are going to get found guilty.
MANN: I'm not sure.
Q: You're not sure? Do you believe that if everybody
comes in here and testifies to what's said here-I know
you're not sure. A: I'm not sure.
Q: I know you're not sure. Do you think it's likely
that- A: It's a possibility, yes.
Q: It's a possibility. You recognize that? A: Yeah.
Q: Okay. And you don't have any affirmative defenses to
this; right? A: ...