State v. Schnieders, No. 14–1675.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtPOTTERFIELD, J.
Citation869 N.W.2d 197 (Table)
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Lucy Ann SCHNIEDERS, Defendant–Appellant.
Decision Date09 July 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14–1675.

869 N.W.2d 197 (Table)

STATE of Iowa, Plaintiff–Appellee
v.
Lucy Ann SCHNIEDERS, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 14–1675.

Court of Appeals of Iowa.

July 9, 2015.


Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller and Jean C. Pettinger, Assistant Attorneys General, Louis S. Sloven, Student Legal Intern, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and Linda Fangman and Brook Jacobsen, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

Considered by VOGEL, P.J., and POTTERFIELD and MULLINS, JJ.

Opinion

POTTERFIELD, J.

Lucy Ann Schnieders appeals following judgment and sentences imposed upon her convictions for four counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6 (2013). She argues the district court did not state adequate reasons for imposing consecutive sentences. She also contends the court imposed an illegal sentence when it entered a protective order prohibiting her from all contact with her children, the victims of her offenses.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On November 7, 2013, a trial information was filed charging Schnieders with four counts of child endangerment (two counts asserted Schnieders permitted abuse resulting in serious injury to the two victims, class “C” felonies, and two counts asserted Schnieders withheld food resulting in bodily injury to the two victims, class “D” felonies) concerning her twin daughters who were born two months prematurely in June 2013. Upon hospitalization for failure to thrive, x-rays revealed each child had multiple broken bones.

On January 27, 2014, Schnieders filed an application to modify the conditions of a no-contact order prohibiting her from having any contact with the alleged victims. After a hearing, the court overruled that application.1

On July 21, 2014, Schnieders entered an Alford plea2 to four counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury.3 The district court specified that Counts I and II of the trial information as amended alleged that between August and September 25, 2013, Schnieders was the parent of M.O. and K.O. and knowingly permitted the continuing physical abuse of M.O. and K.O., resulting in bodily injury; and Counts III and IV of the trial information alleged that between August and September 25, 2013, Schnieders willfully deprived the children of food when she was able to make reasonable provisions, and that the deprivation substantially harmed the children's physical, mental, or emotional health and caused bodily injury. Schnieders's attorney stated that she was “offering this plea without an agreement as to what sentencing will be,” and stated Schnieders understood that each charge carried “a potential maximum term of imprisonment of five years” and that “depending on what the Court does, those could be set to run concurrent for a sentence of five years, but if they are stacked, one on top of each other, that would be a 20–year sentence.”

At the sentencing hearing on October 2, 2014, the State recommended Schnieders be sentenced on two of the four charges to two, five-year prison terms, to run consecutively:

We are recommending that the court, at a minimum, send the defendant to prison for one five-year term. But in light of the fact that there are two separate victims in this case who both received horrible treatment at the hands of their mother, we would recommend a ten-year prison term and have the two cases run consecutive to each other.

The State referred the sentencing court to the minutes of testimony, which contained the statements from the victims' treating physicians attesting to the facts showing that “the babies were abused and abused horribly.”

The presentence investigation (PSI) report noted Schnieders was no longer involved with the father of the twins. The PSI reporter “believed the defendant has been in an emotionally abusive relationship with him and has not wanted to reveal what happened that caused fractures to their twin infants.” The PSI report also indicated Schnieders has two older children who were in the custody of the department of human services (DHS) and “[a]ccording to the defendant's social worker at [DHS] the defendant has done everything they have asked in order to regain the custody and maintain parental rights of these two children.” Regarding the twins, the PSI provided:

They were removed from the defendant's care on 10/25/2013 due to the abuse and conditions being considered unsafe. There is a founded case of child abuse and neglect and there is a no contact order. The twin children are in foster care placement and are not expected to be returned to the defendant. Prior to the birth of the twins the defendant had sought and intended to give the twins up for adoption. She and [the children's father] reconciled at the time of their birth and they kept the babies. The Department of Human Services is recommending termination of the defendant's parental rights and there is no plan to return these children to the defendant. The foster parents intend to adopt the twin girls who are still delayed but continuing to progress.

The PSI report also noted Schnieders had no prior criminal or child abuse record, she had mental health and learning disability problems, “has cooperated fully” with DHS requirements, was working, and had “distanced herself from the unhealthy relationship with the children's father.” The PSI recommended a five-year prison term for each count be imposed and suspended.

The defense attorney argued for a suspended sentence, stating in part:

This is a case of a mother who did fail to protect these two children, these two very fragile infants, and during the course of time this occurred she was involved in an abusive, very unhealthy relationship, again, with the father of these three kids [the twins and one of the mother's older two children]. She has done everything to better herself as an individual and also as a mother. She knows she will lose those two daughters and she has prepared herself emotionally for that; however, she does look forward to the opportunity of having her [two older children] returned to her care.
As a result of this, she's lost her career, her occupation, it looks like she'll lose her two daughters. She has lost a lot, Your Honor, and we're asking the court consider a deferred judgment in this case since
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