Iowa v. Soteco, 20-1291

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtAHLERS, JUDGE.
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ANTHONY WILLIS SOTECO, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number20-1291
Decision Date01 September 2021

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

ANTHONY WILLIS SOTECO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 20-1291

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 1, 2021

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Christine Dalton, District Associate Judge.

Anthony Willis Soteco challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for domestic abuse assault.

Martha J. Lucey, State Appellate Defender, and Josh Irwin, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, and Lisa Manoogian, Student Legal Intern, for appellee.

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


Following a bench trial, Anthony Soteco was found guilty of domestic abuse assault.[1] On appeal, he argues the evidence was insufficient to prove he acted with specific intent to cause pain, injury, or physical contact that would be insulting or offensive to the alleged victim.

Sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenges are reviewed for corrections of errors at law. State v. Donahue, 957 N.W.2d 1, 7 (Iowa 2021). We uphold the verdict on a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge if substantial evidence supports it. State v. Schiebout, 944 N.W.2d 666, 670 (Iowa 2020). Following a bench trial, we review the district court's findings as we would a jury verdict, meaning we will affirm the verdict if supported by substantial evidence. State v. Warren, 955 N.W.2d 848, 857 (Iowa 2021). "Evidence is substantial 'if, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, it can convince a rational jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Schiebout, 944 N.W.2d at 670 (quoting State v. Trane, 934 N.W.2d 447, 455 (Iowa 2019)). All evidence is considered, not just the evidence supporting the verdict. State v. Huser, 894 N.W.2d 472, 490 (Iowa 2017).

Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the district court could find the following facts. On December 30, 2019, E.S. was the renter of a room at an extended-stay hotel. Soteco was living with her in the room. The front desk clerk received several calls from E.S.'s room. When the clerk answered, she could hear faint noises in the room, but the caller would hang up without saying anything. The clerk also received calls reporting yelling and stomping in E.S.'s room. The clerk went to check on E.S.'s room and its occupants, taking the hotel maintenance technician with her. Soteco answered the door. The maintenance technician and clerk told Soteco if the hotel received another report of a disturbance, the authorities would be called. As the clerk walked away from the room, she heard a female voice, later determined to be that of E.S., yelling "please don't hurt me" and "please don't hit me anymore." The clerk called the police.

Police arrived to find E.S. in the room. She appeared afraid and had a swollen and blackened eye and bruises. The first two officers on the scene were male, and E.S. informed them she was okay. When female officers arrived, E.S. eventually informed one of them that Soteco struck her in the eye during an argument. E.S. confirmed these details during her testimony at trial.

To convict Soteco of domestic abuse assault, the State had to prove Soteco committed "an assault, as defined in [Iowa Code] section 708.1, which is domestic abuse as defined in section" 236.2(2)(a), (b), (c), or (d). See Iowa Code § 708.2A(1). Under the State's theory of the case, establishing Soteco committed an assault required the State to prove Soteco, without justification, did "[a]ny act which is intended to cause pain or injury to, or which is intended to result in physical contact which will be insulting or offensive to another, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act." See...

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