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State v. Hellman

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ERIC JOHN HELLMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Guthrie County, Terry Rickers, Judge.

         Eric Hellman appeals his conviction and sentence for assault causing bodily injury.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Bower, C.J., and May and Greer, JJ.

          MAY, Judge.

         A jury found Eric Hellman guilty of assault causing bodily injury. On appeal, he argues: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective, (2) the district court applied the wrong standard when deciding his motion for new trial, (3) the district court imposed court costs without making the required finding of his reasonable ability to pay, and (4) the district court's no-contact order improperly classified his mother as an "intimate partner" and, as a result, improperly imposed a firearms prohibition. We conditionally affirm and remand with instructions.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         On Saturday, June 17, 2017, Hellman went to his parents' home. He wanted his mother, Cherie Hellman, to help fix his cellphone. While communicating with the phone company, Hellman became increasingly agitated.

         According to Cherie, she tried to sneak out of the house when Hellman became enraged. Hellman prevented her exit by "body checking" her into the door. J.H., Hellman's daughter, fled the house. Hellman held Cherie against the door and hit her in the mouth. She was unable to call 911 because, at some point, Hellman had confiscated her cellphone. Eventually, Hellman released her and she fled toward her car.

         At about the same time, Cherie's husband arrived at the home. J.H. ran to him. Meanwhile, Hellman threw Cherie's phone into her car and shoved her inside. She escaped alone in her car. Once on the road, she called 911 and asked for assistance to be sent to her husband and J.H.

         She then headed to the police station. She was told to come back Monday to file a report. So Cherie, her husband, and J.H. left town for the weekend.

         On Monday, they returned to file a police report. Deputy Sheriff Jesse Swensen took photographs of Cherie's bruising and injuries. At trial, Deputy Sheriff Swensen opined that the injuries were consistent with Cherie's account of the assault.

         When law enforcement interviewed Hellman, he relayed a different account of events. He told Deputy Kent Gries that he and Cherie got into an argument about landscaping at his home. During the argument, Cherie hit Hellman nine times in the face with her cane. But Deputy Gries testified he saw ...


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