State v. Bruegger, No. 07-0352.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtAppel
Citation773 N.W.2d 862
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Jordan Kevin Lamar BRUEGGER, Appellant.
Decision Date02 October 2009
Docket NumberNo. 07-0352.
773 N.W.2d 862
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Jordan Kevin Lamar BRUEGGER, Appellant.
No. 07-0352.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
October 2, 2009.

[773 N.W.2d 866]

Matthew R. Metzgar and R. Scott Rhinehart of Rhinehart Law, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sheryl A. Soich, Assistant Attorney General, and Coleman McAllister, County Attorney, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice.


In this case, we are confronted with a claim by a defendant convicted of statutory rape that a twenty-five-year prison sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. His term of incarceration was substantially lengthened based upon a prior incident of sexual misconduct committed by the defendant as a juvenile. For the reasons expressed below, we vacate the sentencing order of the district court and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Prior Proceedings.

According to the victim, K.B., she engaged in a sexual relationship with the then twenty-one-year-old defendant, Jordan Bruegger, shortly after her fifteenth birthday. K.B. considered Bruegger to be her boyfriend and believed she was in love with him.

On January 29, 2006, K.B. and a friend were driving around Hudson, South Dakota. Bruegger joined them in the auto cruising, but eventually left the minors to go to a local bar. K.B. returned home without Bruegger.

At two or three o'clock the next morning, an intoxicated Bruegger drove his truck to K.B.'s home, appeared at K.B.'s window, and woke her. K.B. agreed to leave with Bruegger. Eventually, K.B. and Bruegger drove into Iowa and arrived at a gravel pit in Sioux County owned by Bruegger's family. Bruegger drove the truck off-road, resulting in the vehicle becoming stuck in the mud. K.B. and Bruegger exited the mired vehicle and attempted to walk toward a trailer at the entrance to the gravel pit, but it was too dark and the pair returned to the truck.

After talking for a while, the two had sexual intercourse in the vehicle. They then fell asleep in the truck. After being awoken by the defendant's father later that morning, K.B. and Bruegger walked to the trailer, which was unlocked and unoccupied. Once in the trailer, K.B. and Bruegger engaged in sexual intercourse on a couch and again fell asleep.

773 N.W.2d 867

On February 14, Bruegger was arrested by Iowa authorities. He was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree upon Jane Doe, being 15 years of age, and Bruegger, being five or more years older under Iowa Code section 709.4(2)(c)(4) (2005). The crime involved—consensual sexual intercourse with an underage teenager—is commonly referred to as statutory rape.

On November 22, the State moved to amend its trial information to include a second count of statutory rape stemming from the second act of intercourse occurring in the trailer.

One week later, the State filed a request for a preliminary ruling, stating that it intended to use Bruegger's Faribault County, Minnesota "conviction" for the crime of sexual conduct in the first-degree to enhance Bruegger's sentence under Iowa Code section 901A.2(3). Iowa's sentence enhancement statute relating to sexual offenders provides that "a person convicted of a sexually predatory offense which is a felony," including statutory rape, will receive an enhanced, mandatory sentence of twenty-five years, with the person's sentence reduced by a maximum of fifteen percent, if the offender has a prior conviction of a sexually predatory offense. Iowa Code §§ 901A.1.2(3).

A person who commits the crime of statutory rape as a first offender is subject to a prison sentence of up to ten years, with a reduction for various good time and earned credits. Id. §§ 709.4(2)(c)(4), 902.9(4). The district court also retains discretion to sentence the offender to less than ten years incarceration, and the offender would likely be eligible for parole well in advance of the expiration of any sentence imposed. A person convicted of a sexually predatory offense who is subject to sentence enhancement because of a prior sexually predatory offense, however, is subject to a much harsher mandatory prison term of twenty-five years, without the possibility of parole for approximately 21.25 years.

The conviction which the State intended to use to enhance Bruegger's sentence occurred when Bruegger was twelve years old. Under Iowa Code section 901A.1(2), the term "prior conviction" includes an "adjudication of delinquency." The term "sexually predatory offense" further includes sexual offenses which, if committed in another jurisdiction, would constitute an equivalent offense to those covered under Iowa law. Id. § 901A.1(f). Bruegger does not contest that the Minnesota adjudication qualified as a prior sexually predatory offense for purposes of Iowa's sexual predator sentencing statute.

On January 10, 2007, the State filed a motion to amend the trial information to add the sentencing enhancement based upon Bruegger's juvenile adjudication in Minnesota. On the morning of trial, the State filed another motion to amend that was nearly identical. Bruegger did not resist the enhancement amendment, which the court orally allowed prior to trial.

On January 12, the jury found Bruegger guilty of sexual abuse in the third degree as to count one (the incident in the truck), but not guilty as to count two (the incident in the trailer). After the verdict was rendered, Bruegger admitted to the Minnesota juvenile adjudication. As a result of the admission, a bifurcated trial on the enhancement was not necessary, and the jury was excused. Later that afternoon, the State filed a supplemental trial information. This trial information made no reference to Bruegger's juvenile adjudication.

On February 12, the parties filed documents with the district court prior to sentencing. The State filed a Minnesota court order authorizing the release of Bruegger's juvenile records with appropriate redactions,

773 N.W.2d 868

the original petition filed in Minnesota on March 13, 1997, alleging that Bruegger was delinquent under Minnesota law, a disposition order dated September 26, 1997, adjudicating Bruegger as a delinquent, and copies of Minnesota law relating to sexual misconduct.

In the petition filed with the Minnesota juvenile court, Minnesota authorities alleged that Bruegger committed two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first-degree between October and November 1996. The first count alleged that Bruegger engaged in sexual penetration of another who was under the age of thirteen when Bruegger was more than thirty-six months older than the other person. The second count alleged that Bruegger engaged in sexual penetration of another with a person under the age of thirteen when Bruegger had a significant relationship with that person. The petition further alleged that Bruegger admitted incidents of sexual touching and oral sex with the other person. The other person allegedly stated that Bruegger laid on top of her and rubbed his penis against her private area over her panties. The misconduct occurred while Bruegger was babysitting a younger child.

The dispositional order revealed that Bruegger was adjudicated a delinquent, placed in the custody of the Faribault County Human Services, placed in a therapeutic foster home with a social service agency, and placed on indefinite probation on the condition that he successfully complete a social awareness program and any aftercare recommendations.

Bruegger filed three documents with the court. These documents included a statement from his daughter's mother that he is a loving father, did not drink, and was a good role model, a statement from his stepfather that he was a hard worker and good father, and a letter from his mother offering her perspective on the prior juvenile adjudication and describing the suffering her family endured after Bruegger's arrest.

None of these filings mattered under Iowa law. The district court sentenced Bruegger, as required by statute, to twenty-five years incarceration, with a mandatory minimum of eighty-five percent, a suspended fine of $1000, a civil penalty of $200, a special sentence committing him to the custody of the Director of the Iowa Department of Corrections for the remainder of his life, an additional term of parole or work release not to exceed two years, supervised electronic tracking, and submission of a DNA sample.

After imposing sentence, the court noted:

In reaching this sentencing decision, the court is following the mandates of the Iowa legislature. Our legislature has chosen to focus on sexual offenses and, I believe, in this case has produced a very harsh result. I have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Iowa. And unless I find the statute is unconstitutional, it's my duty to enforce that statute, and that's what I'm required to do in this case. In my opinion this statute is not unconstitutional. However, I think it produces an unintended result of an unfairly harsh punishment for this crime of consensual sexual contact between the defendant and the victim.

Bruegger filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, he claims that use of his prior juvenile adjudication to enhance his sentence for statutory rape was in error as: (1) the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the enhancement, (2) the sentence enhancement constituted cruel and unusual punishment, and (3) the court failed to adequately inform him of the consequences of admitting to the prior adjudication.

773 N.W.2d 869

II. Standard of Review.

A challenge to the trial court's jurisdiction is reviewed for correction of errors at law. State v. Oetken, 613 N.W.2d 679, 686 (Iowa 2000). A defendant may challenge an illegal sentence at any time. State v. Parker, 747 N.W.2d 196, 212 (Iowa 2008). This court reviews constitutional questions de novo. State v. Brooks, 760 N.W.2d 197, 204 (Iowa 2009).

III. Challenge to Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

Bruegger asserts that the district court...

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257 practice notes
  • State v. Bassett, No. 47251-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • April 25, 2017
    ...under the Iowa Constitution, but refer to these sentences as "grossly dis198 Wash.App. 729proportionate ." [State v. Bruegger , 773 N.W.2d 862, 873 (Iowa 2009).] The second classification contemplated categorical bars to imposition of the death penalty irrespective of idiosyncratic facts. [......
  • Zaber v. City of Dubuque, No. 07-1819 (Iowa 6/4/2010), No. 07-1819.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 4, 2010
    ...to be utilized and the application of those standards to the facts and circumstances of a given case. See, e.g., State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 883 (Iowa 2009); Racing Ass'n of Cent. Iowa v. Fitzgerald, 675 N.W.2d 1, 6-7 (Iowa 2004). Here, however, the plaintiff does not propose a whole......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ..."not to re-examine errors occurring at the trial or otherPage 14proceedings prior to the imposition of the sentence." State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 871-72 (Iowa 2009) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 430, 82 S. Ct. 468, 472 (1962)). "Additionally, 'a defective sentencing p......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...88, Null, 836 N.W.2d 41. II. Scope and Standard of Review. An unconstitutional sentence is an illegal sentence. See State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 872 (Iowa 2009). Consequently, an unconstitutional sentence may be corrected at any time. Id.; see also Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(5)(a). Althoug......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
256 cases
  • State v. Bassett, No. 47251-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • April 25, 2017
    ...under the Iowa Constitution, but refer to these sentences as "grossly dis198 Wash.App. 729proportionate ." [State v. Bruegger , 773 N.W.2d 862, 873 (Iowa 2009).] The second classification contemplated categorical bars to imposition of the death penalty irrespective of idiosyncratic facts. [......
  • Zaber v. City of Dubuque, No. 07-1819 (Iowa 6/4/2010), No. 07-1819.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 4, 2010
    ...to be utilized and the application of those standards to the facts and circumstances of a given case. See, e.g., State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 883 (Iowa 2009); Racing Ass'n of Cent. Iowa v. Fitzgerald, 675 N.W.2d 1, 6-7 (Iowa 2004). Here, however, the plaintiff does not propose a whole......
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ..."not to re-examine errors occurring at the trial or otherPage 14proceedings prior to the imposition of the sentence." State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 871-72 (Iowa 2009) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 430, 82 S. Ct. 468, 472 (1962)). "Additionally, 'a defective sentencing p......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...88, Null, 836 N.W.2d 41. II. Scope and Standard of Review. An unconstitutional sentence is an illegal sentence. See State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 872 (Iowa 2009). Consequently, an unconstitutional sentence may be corrected at any time. Id.; see also Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(5)(a). Althoug......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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