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State v. Tsegay

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
VENHURE YOSEF TSEGAY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Lucy J. Gamon, Judge.

         Defendant appeals his conviction for first-degree robbery.

          Alfredo Parrish and Gina Messamer of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.

          SCHUMACHER, JUDGE.

         Venhure Tsegay appeals his conviction for first-degree robbery. He claims his sentence of twenty-five years in prison should be considered cruel and unusual punishment because he was eighteen years old at the time of the offense. He also raises an equal protection challenge. We affirm Tsegay's conviction and sentence.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Tsegay pled guilty to robbery in the first degree, a violation of Iowa Code section 711.2 (2016) and a class "B" felony. At the plea proceedings, Tsegay stated he and Calvin Luckett took marijuana and a cell phone from Christian Madueno while Luckett was armed with a handgun. Tsegay knew of the plan to rob Madueno and knew Luckett had a handgun. Tsegay pled guilty on a theory he aided and abetted the robbery. As part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to dismiss all other charges pending against Tsegay, including the other count contained in the trial information, murder in the first degree.

         Prior to sentencing, Tsegay submitted a brief claiming the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence in his case would be cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa Constitution because he was eighteen years old at the time of the offense. The presentence investigation report noted Tsegay came to the United States with his parents as a refugee from Eritrea, Africa. Tsegay's attorney stated Tsegay had trouble acclimating to the United States and learning the language, causing him to fall into bad company.

         The district court sentenced Tsegay to a term of imprisonment not to exceed twenty-five years, with a seventy percent mandatory minimum sentence. Tsegay now appeals his conviction and sentence.

         II. Standard of Review

         When a defendant raises a constitutional challenge to a sentence, our review is de novo. State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 113 (Iowa 2013). An illegal sentence may be challenged at any time. State v. Bruegger, 737 N.W.2d 862, 869 (Iowa 2009).

         III. ...


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