State v. Pearce, 22-0267

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtGREER, JUDGE.
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. NATHANIEL SCOTT PEARCE, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number22-0267
Decision Date17 November 2022

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.

NATHANIEL SCOTT PEARCE, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 22-0267

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 17, 2022


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Gregg R. Rosenbladt, Judge.

The defendant challenges the imposition of consecutive sentences following guilty pleas.

Raya D. Dimitrova of Carr Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Nicholas E. Siefert, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

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GREER, JUDGE.

Nathaniel Pearce pled guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and was later sentenced to two consecutive twenty-five-year terms of imprisonment. Here on appeal, Pearce argues the district court did not provide adequate reasons to explain why it imposed consecutive sentences and the court placed too much weight on the nature of the offenses in deciding the appropriate sentences.[1] We find no abuse of discretion.

"Errors in sentencing, including contentions the trial court failed to articulate adequate reasons for a particular sentence, 'may be challenged on direct appeal even in the absence of an objection in the district court.'" State v. Thacker, 862 N.W.2d 402, 405 (Iowa 2015) (citation omitted). We review sentencing decisions for correction of errors at law. State v. Valin, 724 N.W.2d 440, 444 (Iowa 2006). "We will not reverse the decision of the district court absent an abuse of discretion or some defect in the sentencing procedure." State v. Letscher, 888 N.W.2d 880, 883 (Iowa 2016) (citation omitted). In exercising discretion at sentencing, the district court must weigh and consider "all pertinent matters in determining a proper sentence, including the nature of the offense, the attending circumstances, the defendant's age, character, and propensities or chances for reform." Thacker, 862 N.W.2d at 405 (quoting State v. Johnson, 476 N.W.2d 330, 335 (Iowa 1991)). Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.23(3)(d) also provides that the court must state on

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the record the reasons for selecting the particular sentence. This applies to the decision to impose consecutive terms. State v. Hill, 878 N.W.2d 269, 273 (Iowa 2016). The purpose of requiring the sentencing court to state the reasons for the sentence is to "ensure[] defendants are well aware of the consequences of their criminal actions" and to afford "appellate courts the opportunity to review the discretion of the sentencing court." Id. (citations omitted).

As part of a plea agreement, the State amended the charges against Pearce from two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child[2] to two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.3(1)(b) (committing sexual abuse and the other person is under age twelve). Both Pearce and the State were free to argue for any sentencing recommendation they saw fit. The State recommended two consecutive sentences because one of the children "incurred this over a period of ten years" and "[t]he other one over five years." Through his attorney, Pearce asked the court to order the sentences to run concurrently, stating that while "it is a very bad thing that went on for ten years," concurrent twenty-five-year sentences with a 70% mandatory minimum would "speak volumes" to both Pearce and "also to the public" from a deterrence standpoint. After Pearce's allocution, the court stated:

In considering a sentence, Mr. Pearce, the Court needs to look at several factors. The broad factors include the defendant's maximum rehabilitation and the protection of the community from offenses by this defendant and others Part of that protection of the
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