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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 9, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
PHILLIP WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Heather Lauber, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his sentence following his guilty plea to attempted burglary.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and Shellie L. Knipfer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         Phillip Williams pleaded guilty to attempted burglary after surveillance footage showed him carrying items out of his ex-wife's apartment. This appeal is from his sentencing. Williams contends the sentencing court abused its discretion in considering his failure to acknowledge how his actions "affected the victim of this case." Because that court properly considered Williams's limited remorse for his offense, we decline to order resentencing.[1]

         When his ex-wife was away on a trip in June 2017, Williams entered her apartment without permission and carried out electronic equipment in an IKEA bag.[2] That conduct led the police to charge Williams with burglary in the third degree, a class "D" felony. After negotiations with the county attorney, Williams entered a guilty plea to attempted burglary, an aggravated misdemeanor.[3] Under that agreement, the parties were free to argue any legal sentence.

         At his sentencing, the State argued Williams was "not a good candidate for probation" and recommended a prison term not to exceed two years. In support of that recommendation, the State pointed to Williams's "significant criminal history." The prosecutor also read the victim impact statement filed by the ex-wife. In that statement, the victim recounted her sleepless nights and increased anxiety after the crime. The prosecutor told the sentencing court:

He has been given chances at probation, he has been given fines, he has been given lengthy jail stays and he has been given prison sentences.
None of those were enough to deter his conduct when he attempted to break into the residence of his ex-wife causing her to be placed in fear for some period of time.

         On the other side of the courtroom, defense counsel stressed the recommendation of probation in the presentence investigation report. Defense counsel also highlighted the fact his client had not violated the no-contact order issued to protect the victim.

         In his allocution, Williams acknowledged his "terrible" criminal history. But then underscored the "positive path" he had taken in the past year-securing employment, paying child support, and completing substance-abuse treatment. He told the court: "The past year has been an eye-opener. Couple of things I didn't know at the time is I was affecting family, friends, and those close to me. The most damaging was the relationship with my children." Williams continued: "I have also been trying to repair relationships with my children and others that are important to me." He told the court he could succeed on probation this time because he "learned a lot."[4] Although he told the court he had been drafting his allocution statement "over the past couple of months," Williams did not include any direct references to the crime at hand.

         After hearing those recommendations from both the State and the defense, the ...


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