State v. Thompson, No. 19-1259

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD, Justice.
Citation954 N.W.2d 402
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Howard J. THOMPSON, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 19-1259
Decision Date05 February 2021

954 N.W.2d 402

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Howard J. THOMPSON, Appellant.

No. 19-1259

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted September 17, 2020
Filed February 5, 2021


Kent A. Simmons, Bettendorf, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, Michael Walton, County Attorney, and Nathan Repp and Jonathan Noble, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

McDonald, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Waterman, Mansfield, and Oxley, JJ., joined. McDermott, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Christensen, C.J., and Appel, J., joined.

McDONALD, Justice.

954 N.W.2d 405

Howard Thompson was convicted of two counts of attempting to obtain a prescription drug by deceit, as a habitual offender, in violation of Iowa Code section 155A.23(1) (2019), and one count of conspiracy to commit a nonforcible felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 706.3(2). Thompson raises two challenges in this direct appeal. First, Thompson contends the district court abused its discretion in admitting evidence regarding Thompson's residential address, which was offered to prove Thompson's knowledge, motive, and intent. Second, Thompson challenges the constitutionality of a newly-enacted law that prohibits a represented defendant from filing pro se documents.

I.

On June 5, 2017, Thompson and his friend, Markita Elverton, drove together to a local grocery-store pharmacy. Elverton entered the store alone and presented to the pharmacy technician a prescription for Elverton for oxycodone. After dropping off the prescription, Elverton went to the customer service counter and mailed a letter. The return address on the letter was Markita Elverton, 1303 14th Street, DeWitt, Iowa. After mailing the letter, Elverton returned to the vehicle where Thompson was waiting. An employee of the pharmacy called the doctor's office identified in the prescription and learned the prescription was fraudulent. A manager of the pharmacy notified law enforcement.

After Elverton returned to the vehicle where Thompson was waiting, she and Thompson drove across the street to a different pharmacy. This time, Thompson entered the store alone, and Elverton waited in the vehicle. Thompson dropped off a prescription for Claudia Williamson for hydrocodone. Hailey Drobushevich, the pharmacy technician, asked Thompson for an address. Drobushevich testified Thompson gave the address 1303 6th Street, Dewitt, Iowa. Thompson then returned to the vehicle where Elverton was waiting. An employee of the pharmacy called the doctor's office identified in the prescription and learned the prescription was fraudulent. A manager notified law enforcement.

After Thompson returned to the vehicle, he and Elverton drove back across the street to the first pharmacy. Although Elverton dropped off the prescription just moments before, Thompson entered the store to pick up the prescription. While Thompson was standing by the pharmacy counter, he was approached by responding officer Cristina Thomas. Officer Thomas first asked, "Hey man, what's going on? Do you have an ID on you, sir?" Thompson replied, "No." Officer Thomas asked, "Do you know why I'm here?" And Thompson said, "No." "Okay, the reason I'm here is because, apparently, you're trying to pick up a fraudulent prescription," Thomas stated. Thompson denied he was picking up a prescription, stating, "How I'm trying to pick it up though?" Thomas asked, "Are you trying to pick up a prescription, a

954 N.W.2d 406

prescription, for an [Overton/Elverton]?" And Thompson replied, "No." Thomas then asked Thompson, "Okay. Do you have any weapons on you or anything, sir?" Thompson then bolted out of the store. Thomas chased him out of the store, across the parking lot, and through the neighboring properties but to no avail. Thompson escaped.

Thompson was arrested several months later and charged with two counts of attempting to obtain a prescription drug by deceit, as a habitual offender, and conspiracy to commit a nonforcible felony. At trial, Thompson's defense was wrong place, wrong time.

Elverton testified on Thompson's behalf. Elverton testified she had stolen prescription pads from a doctor's office a few years prior to this incident. She testified the prescriptions she and Thompson presented were written on the stolen prescription pads and were fraudulent. She forged the prescriptions to obtain drugs because she had an addiction. According to Elverton, Thompson was only involved because she asked him to help her drop off and pick up prescriptions. She testified she did not tell Thompson there was anything improper about the prescriptions. She testified Thompson did not know the prescriptions were fraudulent. She testified that she pleaded guilty to criminal charges arising out of this incident and that she wanted to clear Thompson of any responsibility.

Elverton's attempt to exculpate Thompson was not credible. For example, Elverton testified she wrote the prescriptions for the two drugs because of her drug addiction, but she could not remember the name of one of the drugs to which she allegedly was addicted and for which she forged a prescription. As another example, one of the prescriptions Elverton forged was for Claudia Williamson, but, when pressed, Elverton testified she had "no clue" who Claudia Williamson was. Also, according to Elverton, Thompson was dropping off prescriptions for Elverton, but Thompson presented the prescription for Williamson without ever asking who Williamson was. (Although not material to our resolution of the issues in this appeal, the presentence investigation report shows Claudia Williamson is Thompson's biological mother.)

The jury found the defendant guilty of all charges. The district court concluded the sentence for the conspiracy offense merged with the sentences for attempt to obtain a prescription drug and sentenced Thompson to a term of incarceration not to exceed fifteen years.

II.

We first address Thompson's evidentiary challenge. Our review is for an abuse of discretion. See State v. Martin , 704 N.W.2d 665, 671 (Iowa 2005) ; Jensen v. Sattler , 696 N.W.2d 582, 585 (Iowa 2005). Evidentiary decisions will be given "wide latitude regarding admissibility" so long as the district court did not ignore the established rules of evidence. State v. Sallis , 574 N.W.2d 15, 16 (Iowa 1998).

Because Elverton conceded the prescriptions were forged, the primary issue at trial was whether Thompson knowingly participated in the crime either as a principal or as an aider and abettor. One of the ways in which the State attempted to prove Thompson's knowledge, intent, and motive was to show Thompson gave false residential address information to pharmacy technician Drobushevich. To prove this, the State tried to show the address Thompson gave to Drobushevich was not his address.

The State first called Officer Herve Denain. Denain was dispatched to Walgreens to investigate the incident and create a

954 N.W.2d 407

police report. Denain testified Thompson gave the address 1303 6th Street, DeWitt, when presenting the prescription. Denain stated this address differed from the address Denain entered on the complaint. Denain did not testify how he obtained Thompson's residential address information, specifically, when completing the complaint. But he did testify how he usually obtained residential address information for a defendant when filling out a complaint. When the prosecutor asked Denain the address on the complaint, Denain could not recall. The prosecutor was allowed, over defendant's objection, to refresh Denain's memory by presenting him a copy of the complaint. Denain testified the residential address entered on the complaint was 1303 14th Street, DeWitt. This is the same address as the return address on the envelope Elverton placed in the mail.

The State also tried to prove Thompson gave a false address to the pharmacy technician by showing the address given differed from that on Thompson's written arraignment and plea of not guilty. To lay foundation for the exhibit, the State called a judicial specialist from the clerk of court's office. The written arraignment and plea of not guilty was a form document. Question two of the form stated, "My name, current mailing and residence addresses, and telephone number are," which was followed by a blank space. The blank space was completed and stated Thompson's mailing and residence addresses were "1303 14th Street, DeWitt, IA 52744." The arraignment was signed by Thompson. The exhibit was admitted over the defendant's objection.

Thompson contends Denain's testimony regarding the address on the complaint and the arraignment form were not relevant. "Iowa has adopted a broad view of relevancy ...." State v. Scott , 619 N.W.2d 371, 375 (Iowa 2000) (en banc). "Evidence is relevant if ... [i]t has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence" and "[t]he fact is of consequence in determining the action." Iowa R. Evid. 5.401. "Whether the necessary minimum level of logical connection between the offered evidence and the fact to be proven exists is a legal question lying within the broad discretion of the trial court." State v. Tracy , 482 N.W.2d 675...

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23 practice notes
  • State v. Tucker, No. 19-2082
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 7, 2021
    ...Separate Departments, § 1. As we recently explained in State v. Thompson , the separation-of-powers doctrine has three general aspects. 954 N.W.2d 402, 410 (Iowa 2021). The separation-of-powers doctrine prohibits one department of the government from exercising powers that are clearly forbi......
  • State v. Treptow, No. 19-1276
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 28, 2021
    ...decisions. See generally Hrbek v. State , 958 N.W.2d 779 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Tucker , 959 N.W.2d 140 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Boldon , 954 N.W.2d 62 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Draine , 936 N.W.2d 205 (Iowa 2019) ; State v. Macke , 933 N.W.2d 226......
  • State v. Crawford, 19-1506
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 18, 2022
    ...department is to exercise the judicial power to provide for the fair and impartial administration of justice." State v. Thompson, 954 N.W.2d 402, 410 (Iowa 2021). An additional part of this court's authority and duty to review any sufficiency challenge raised on direct appeal arose out of t......
  • State v. Crawford, 19-1506
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 18, 2022
    ...department is to exercise the judicial power to provide for the fair and impartial administration of justice." State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402, 410 (Iowa 2021).An additional part of this court's authority and duty to review any sufficiency challenge raised on direct appeal arose out of t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • State v. Tucker, No. 19-2082
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 7, 2021
    ...Separate Departments, § 1. As we recently explained in State v. Thompson , the separation-of-powers doctrine has three general aspects. 954 N.W.2d 402, 410 (Iowa 2021). The separation-of-powers doctrine prohibits one department of the government from exercising powers that are clearly forbi......
  • State v. Treptow, No. 19-1276
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 28, 2021
    ...decisions. See generally Hrbek v. State , 958 N.W.2d 779 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Tucker , 959 N.W.2d 140 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Boldon , 954 N.W.2d 62 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Draine , 936 N.W.2d 205 (Iowa 2019) ; State v. Macke , 933 N.W.2d 226......
  • Iowa Ass'n of Bus. & Indus. v. City of Waterloo, No. 20-0575
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 18, 2021
    ...power to construe and interpret the Constitution and laws, and to apply them and [to] decide controversies ...." State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402, 410–11 (Iowa 2021) (quoting Hutchins v. City of Des Moines , 176 Iowa 189, 205, 157 N.W. 881, 887 (1916) ). "The power of appellate ......
  • Iowa Ass'n of Bus. & Indus. v. City of Waterloo, No. 20-0575
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 18, 2021
    ...to construe and interpret the Constitution and laws, and to apply them and [to] decide controversies . . . ." State v. Thompson, 954 N.W.2d 402, 410-11 (Iowa 2021) (quoting Hutchins v. City of Des Moines, 176 Iowa 189, 205, 157 N.W. 881, 887 (1916)). "The power of appellate review......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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