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STATE OF IOWA vs. NAPOLEON MBONYUNKIZA
Case Number: 14-1283
Judge: Robert Mahan
Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant
Description: D.B., a mentally and physically incapacitated woman living at a Des
Moines-area group home, was treated at Mercy Hospital for weight loss, gagging,
and digestive issues. It was discovered D.B. was twenty weeks pregnant. The
pregnancy was terminated per the direction of D.B.’s guardian. Police sought
DNA samples of all males with access to D.B., including Mbonyunkiza, a
caretaker for D.B. at the group home. While paternity testing could exclude
99.9% of the male population, it could not exclude Mbonyunkiza as the fetus’
In July 2010, the State filed a trial information (FECR237656) charging
Mbonyunkiza with sexual abuse in the third degree, neglect of a dependent
person, and dependent adult abuse. Mbonyunkiza was arrested, a preliminary
hearing was scheduled, and he was released. After Mbonyunkiza failed to
appear for his preliminary hearing, police discovered he had fled to Uganda. The
State then filed a trial information (FECR238083) charging Mbonyunkiza with
failure to appear.
Mbonyunkiza subsequently returned to the United States and was taken
into custody to face the pending charges. The issue of competency was raised
by defense counsel, and the district court ordered Mbonyunkiza to be evaluated
by Dr. Tracy Thomas. The State moved for a separate evaluation, and the court
ordered Mbonyunkiza to be evaluated by Dr. James Dennert. Both experts
opined Mbonyunkiza was competent to stand trial. Following a competency
hearing, the court concluded Mbonyunkiza was competent to stand trial.
Mbonyunkiza subsequently pled guilty as charged to each count.
Mbonyunkiza’s attorney informed the court Mbonyunkiza intended to argue for a
favorable sentence. The court accepted Mbonyunkiza’s pleas and sentenced
him to the maximum terms of imprisonment—ten years on two counts and five
years on two counts—to run consecutively, for a total of thirty years.
Mbonyunkiza appeals. Additional facts will be set forth below as relevant
to the issues raised on appeal.
Mbonyunkiza challenges the district court’s finding that he was competent
to stand trial. Mbonyunkiza contends his alleged incompetence to stand trial
implicates his due process rights. “[T]he constitutional basis of a claim the
defendant is not competent to be tried requires a de novo review on appeal.”
See State v. Johnson, 784 N.W.2d 192, 194 (Iowa 2010).
Competency to stand trial is governed by Iowa Code section 812.3 (2015),
If at any stage of a criminal proceeding the defendant or the defendant’s attorney, upon application to the court, alleges specific facts showing that the defendant is suffering from a mental disorder
which prevents the defendant from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting effectively in the defense, the court shall suspend further proceedings and determine if probable cause exists to sustain the allegations. The applicant has the burden of establishing probable cause.
“We presume a defendant is competent to stand trial. The defendant has the
burden of proving his or her incompetency to stand trial by a preponderance of
the evidence. If the evidence is in equipoise, the presumption of competency
prevails.” Id. at 194 (citation omitted).
In September 2013, defense counsel and Mbonyunkiza requested a
competency evaluation pursuant to section 812.3. Defense counsel became
concerned about Mbonyunkiza’s competence after discussions with
Mbonyunkiza. Mbonyunkiza reported he heard voices, someone cast “spells” on
him, and “sorcery” caused him to do bad things. Mbonyunkiza related that he
grew up in Rwanda, where he witnessed brutal murders of his family members.
He had been treated for posttraumatic stress and depression.
The district court granted the request for a competency evaluation. The
defense’s evaluator, Dr. Tracy Thomas, submitted an initial report in October
2013, stating “a definitive opinion [as to Mbonyunkiza’s competence] could not be
made due to lack of information.” During that hearing, the State requested a
second evaluation, and the court granted the request.
The State’s evaluator, Dr. James Dennert, conducted an interview of
Mbonyunkiza and reviewed the trial information, minutes of testimony, and Dr.
Thomas’ October 2013 report. Dr. Dennert’s December 16, 2013 evaluation
On the basis of the information provided to me, and my interview of Mr. Mbonyunkiza, it is my medical opinion that he does not suffer a mental illness that renders him incompetent to stand trial. Specifically, he does not suffer a mental illness that prevents him from understanding the charges against him, or that prevents him from being able to understand the court proceedings, or that prevents him from assisting his attorney in his defense. While Mr. Mbonyunkiza said that he did not know or understand the charges against him, he seemed to understand quite well when I told him, in general, what he was accused of. He denied that he had done what he is charged with, and maintained his denial throughout our interview. He also indicated that he was trying to learn about how trials work, and that the major impediment to his current understanding is his poor English. He even said that, if he could have the trial explained to him in French that this would help “absolutely.” Mr. Mbonyunkiza’s claimed lack of memory for his trip to Uganda and subsequent return to the United States is not consistent with any known psychiatric or neurological syndrome. He is able to provide very good history for other aspects of his life. It is my opinion that Mr. Mbonyunkiza does, in fact, recall going to Uganda, but that he is falsely claiming not to recall. His lack of memory is clearly self-serving. It is also my opinion that Mr. Mbonyunkiza’s reports of hearing “voices” are self-serving as well. During my interview, he at no time appeared to be attending to inner stimuli. I am unaware of any reports of his behavior while in jail that would suggest psychotic symptoms. I am unaware of any history of psychosis in Mr. Mbonyunkiza; his reported treatment in Rwanda and Uganda appear to be for depression, or possibly posttraumatic stress, but not psychosis. Mr. Mbonyunkiza does report current symptoms of a depressive nature. He complains of sleep problems, appetite disturbance, and decreased energy. He was also tearful at times during our interview. These symptoms are not surprising in someone jailed for the crimes that Mr. Mbonyunkiza is accused of committing. Taken together, they are consistent with a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood. On the basis of all the information provided to me and my interview with Mr. Mbonyunkiza, it is my medical opinion that he is competent to stand trial. He does not suffer any psychiatric or mental illness that renders him incompetent. The only potential obstacle to his participation in his trial is language, and that can be addressed by providing him with a French interpreter, who could explain the charges, the basic workings of the court system, and provide ongoing interpretation during trial.
After Dr. Dennert’s report was submitted—and after conducting another
interview of Mbonyunkiza and reviewing additional materials—Dr. Thomas
submitted an “update[d]” report opining Mbonyunkiza was competent to stand
trial. Dr. Thomas’ January 17, 2014 evaluation opined:
Based on the information available to this evaluator and on the two interviews conducted with the defendant, this evaluator was not able to find conclusive evidence of a mental disorder that would preclude the defendant from appreciating his charges, understanding the proceedings against him, or assisting in his defense. Although he reported at first interview a history of mental health problems, his report of those issues has not been consistent and available records do not show that he has ever been observed to have a major mental illness that would be expected to impact competence. Further, his presentation during interviews with this evaluator was not consistent with a major mental illness, such as a bipolar disorder or a psychotic disorder. Mr. Mbonyunkiza may have [posttraumatic stress disorder] PTSD from experiences in Africa and may have an Adjustment Disorder related to his current situation. However, these conditions would not typically be expected to impact an individual’s competence to proceed. The fact that the defendant does not present with a requisite mental disorder makes further analysis of his competence-related abilities moot; however, this evaluator would like to briefly comment on the issue of psycho-legal abilities. Mr. Mbooyunkiza does report a fairly significant lack of understanding of his charges, the legal process, and the role of his attorney. It is this evaluator’s opinion that those deficits are a product of cultural and language issues. It is also possible that the defendant is magnifying his lack of knowledge due to fear regarding his charges and the impending legal process. He is likely to need some education on the legal system and will likely require the continued use of an interpreter. Taken together, it is this evaluator’s opinion the defendant is competent to proceed with his current charges.
The experts’ reports were introduced at a second hearing, where the
district court ruled: “The court has had an opportunity to review all of the
evaluations that have been presented. The court finds based upon those
evaluations and the expert opinions that the defendant in this matter is
competent to stand trial.”
On appeal, Mbonyunkiza points to Dr. Thomas’ initial report as “the first
professional indication . . . that it was possible [he] was incompetent.” But
Mbonyunkiza ignores the fact that Dr. Thomas subsequently updated the initial
report to reach an opinion Mbonyunkiza was competent to stand trial stating,
“Since the time of the October 2013 report, this evaluator was able to review
additional information and re-interview the defendant making possible the
formation of an opinion regarding competence.” Moreover, by the time of Dr.
Thomas’ updated evaluation, Dr. Thomas had conducted two interviews with
Mbonyunkiza and reviewed Mbonyunkiza’s medical and jail records.
Mbonyunkiza further claims, “The exhibits demonstrated that there was a
language barrier, as well as serious concerns about Mbonyunkiza’s mental
health.” According to Mbonyunkiza, “A general theme came through the written
materials, and the statements made by Mbonyunkiza on the record—that he was
suffering from voices, that he was suffering from the effects of genocide, and he
believed he was under a voodoo spell from a witch.”
In addition to reviewing the experts’ reports, the district court had the
opportunity to observe Mbonyunkiza at several hearings before making a
determination of his competence. Although Mbonyunkiza did not testify, the
court was able to view Mbonyunkiza’s demeanor, as well as his ability to ask and
answer questions and interact with counsel. Upon our de novo review of the
record, we conclude Mbonyunkiza failed to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that he was not competent to stand trial. Accordingly, we affirm the
decision of the district court on this issue.
III. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Mbonyunkiza contends his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to
challenge his plea where (A) there was no factual basis to support his conviction
for dependent adult abuse; (B) the plea was not intelligent, knowing, or voluntary
due to his lack of competence; and (C) there was no plea agreement.1 To
succeed on these ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims, Mbonyunkiza must
show (1) the breach of an essential duty and (2) prejudice. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). “If we conclude a claimant has failed to
establish either of these elements, we need not address the remaining element.”
Dempsey v. State, 860 N.W.2d 860, 868 (Iowa 2015).
A. Factual Basis–Dependent Adult Abuse
A guilty plea may not be accepted by a court without the court first
determining the plea has a factual basis. Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.8(2)(b). If there is
no factual basis to support a defendant’s guilty plea and the defendant’s counsel
permits the defendant “to plead guilty and waive his right to file a motion in arrest
of judgment” anyway, that counselor renders the defendant ineffective
assistance. See State v. Ortiz, 789 N.W.2d 761, 764-65 (Iowa 2010) (stating
“counsel violates an essential duty” and “[p]rejudice is presumed under these
circumstances”). To succeed on the essential-duty prong, Mbonyunkiza must
1 Generally, a defendant’s failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment bars a direct appeal of the conviction. Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(3)(a). But this failure does not bar a challenge to a guilty plea if the failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment resulted from ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Rodriguez, 804 N.W.2d 844, 848 (Iowa 2011). We therefore proceed to the merits of Mbonyunkiza’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims.
demonstrate the record lacks a factual basis to support his guilty plea to
dependent adult abuse. See id. at 765.
Mbonyunkiza pled guilty to dependent adult abuse causing physical injury,
in violation of Iowa Code sections 235B.2(5)(a)(1)(b) and 235B.20(4).
“‘Dependent adult abuse’ means . . . [a]ny of the following as a result of the willful
or negligent acts or omissions of a caretaker: . . . [t]he commission of a sexual
offense . . . with or against a dependent adult.” Iowa Code § 235B.2(5)(a)(1)(b).
“A caretaker who intentionally commits dependent adult abuse on a dependent
adult in violation of this chapter is guilty of a class ‘C’ felony if the intentional
dependent adult abuse results in physical injury.” Id. § 235B.20(4) (emphasis
Mbonyunkiza challenges the “physical injury” element of the offense.
Specifically, he claims D.B.’s pregnancy and related sickness from the pregnancy
was not a “physical injury,” and the court “should not read pregnancy into a
definition of ‘physical injury’ without clear language from the legislature that
pregnancy is considered a ‘physical injury.’” Mbonyunkiza relies on United
States v. Yankton, 986 F.2d 1225, 1229-30 (8th Cir. 1993), where the court
concluded pregnancy resulting from rape did not constitute a “serious bodily
injury.” But as the State points out, the court in Yankton was interpreting
sentencing guidelines, which allowed for an elevated offense level for
“permanent or life-threatening injury” or “serious bodily injury,” not physical injury.
See Yankton, 986 F.2d at 1229. Indeed, Mbonyunkiza pled guilty to dependent
adult abuse resulting physical injury—not resulting in serious injury. Compare
Iowa Code § 235B.20(2) (defining dependent adult abuse resulting in serious
injury), with id. § 235B.20(4) (defining dependent adult abuse resulting in
physical injury); see also id. §§ 235B.2(13) (“‘Serious injury’ means the same as
defined in section 702.18.”); 702.18 (defining “serious injury”). The State
counters, “A better, common-sense view holds that pregnancy resulting from
rape meets not only the lower threshold of ‘physical injury’ but definitions of ‘great
We need not reach the question of whether pregnancy should be
considered a physical injury per se. The parties acknowledge “physical injury” is
not defined in the Iowa Code. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “bodily
injury”—also termed “physical injury”—is defined as “physical damage to a
person’s body.” Black’s Law Dictionary 789 (7th ed. 1999).
Here, the record shows D.B. was a “wheel chair bound” woman “unable to
speak works or write” and “suffer[ing] from physical incapacitation as well as a
mental defect or incapacity.” While caring for D.B. as part of his employment
duties at the group home where D.B. resided, Mbonyunkiza forcibly sexually
assaulted D.B. The Iowa Supreme Court has “recognize[d] that forcible sexual
abuse will frequently cause pain or other injury. It has been held, for example,
that forcible rape is bodily injury as a matter of law.” State v. McKee, 312 N.W.2d
907, 914 (Iowa 1981) (citation omitted). In addition to the act of sexual assault
itself, Mbonyunkiza’s assault caused D.B. to become pregnant and hospitalized
for weight loss, gagging, and digestive problems; D.B.’s pregnancy culminated in
an abortion at twenty-weeks’ gestation. The record supports a finding of a
physical injury. Accordingly, we conclude the minutes provide a factual basis for
Mbonyunkiza’s plea, and trial counsel was not ineffective for permitting him to
B. Unknowing, Involuntary, Uninformed Plea
Mbonyunkiza next contends his counsel was ineffective in failing to
challenge his “clear incompetency” and allowing him to plead guilty.
Mbonyunkiza points to statements he made during the hearings that showed
“issues with [his] ability to understand the guilty plea he was entering.”
At the outset of the plea hearing, trial counsel stated:
I set these two cases for guilty pleas. That was done at the request of my client. He informed me that he wishes to plead guilty to these charges and have this matter set down for sentencing. And at the time of sentencing, we intend to argue for a favorable disposition for this defendant.
But prior to the plea colloquy, Mbonyunkiza told the court, “[W]hat I want is
with complete awareness of the mental illness that I have that is bothering me so
much.” He stated, “[B]efore making a decision, in order to make a decision, [I]
ask for more time because I’m taking these medications and I was for my mental
health to be quite okay so that it would be adequate for making this kind of
decision.” Mbonyunkiza further stated he did not understand “a lot of things” the
court had talked about. The court responded, “It appears to me you’ve
understood all of my questions,” and reminded Mbonyunkiza, “Sir, you have
undergone a competency evaluation during the pendency of this case and you
have been found competent to stand trial.”
Defense counsel then explained her investigation of possible defenses on
So what I did was discuss this case with this defendant as well as an expert that I consulted with regarding the defenses such as diminished responsibility, diminished capacity, any mental health defenses. I also obtained medical records regarding this defendant and it provided some history. The information I obtained from my various sources, in my opinion, would not be able to support a diminished responsibility, diminished capacity or any such mental health defenses that would have been—that this defendant would have been suffering from at the time the alleged offenses occurred.
The court observed defense counsel was “capable and competent” in her
investigation of Mbonyunkiza’s mental health and possible defenses.
After more discussion by Mbonyunkiza with regard to his mental health,
the court asked Mbonyunkiza if he wanted to enter a plea or whether he wanted
the matter set for trial. Mbonyunkiza stated, “I would first like to discuss that with
my lawyer to make a decision.” The court allowed Mbonyunkiza twenty minutes
in private with counsel. When the hearing resumed, the court asked
Mbonyunkiza, “Do you wish to enter a plea of guilty today or do you want me to
confirm this for trial?” to which Mbonyunkiza answered, “I understand. Yes. I
want to take—I want to plead guilty today.”
On our de novo review, we cannot find counsel was ineffective in failing to
challenge Mbonyunkiza’s plea as unknowing, involuntary, or uninformed. We
further observe trial counsel was the one who raised the issue of competence
initially, and she requested a competency evaluation. As noted above, the
experts agreed Mbonyunkiza was competent to stand trial. Moreover, in the plea
context, the prejudice element requires proof of a reasonable probability that, but
for counsel’s errors, the defendant would not have pled guilty and would have
insisted on going to trial. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 138 (Iowa 2006). On
our de novo review, we are convinced Mbonyunkiza cannot establish either
element of his claim. We affirm on this issue.
C. Plea Agreement
Mbonyunkiza contends his counsel was ineffective in allowing him to
plead guilty without a plea agreement. Mbonyunkiza cites no authority for this
assertion, only a generalized claim that he received “no benefit whatsoever” to
pleading guilty. It is apparent from the record Mbonyunkiza decided to plead
guilty and “argue for a favorable” sentence. At the outset of the plea hearing, the
State acknowledged, “[I]t’s my understanding that the defendant will plead to all
of these charges. There is not a plea agreement so the parties will be free to
argue any disposition.”
Mbonyunkiza’s decision to plead guilty could be considered both strategic
and logical. The evidence against him was overwhelming. By “accept[ing]
responsibility” for his actions, Mbonyunkiza was able to express remorse to the
court, describe his “mental illness” as the reason he made a “poor decision,” and
ask the court to consider his act “a single incident” for sentencing purposes. Trial
counsel was not ineffective in allowing Mbonyunkiza to plead guilty under these
circumstances. We affirm on this issue.
IV. Double Jeopardy and Merger
Mbonyunkiza contends he “was accused of having sex one time with one
victim who was mentally incapable of giving consent,” and “he was charged with
sex abuse in the third degree, neglect of a dependent person and dependent
adult abuse, and given consecutive sentences.”2 According to Mbonyunkiza,
“This violated [his] rights under Iowa statutory law for a violation of the merger
rule in Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.6(1), and the double jeopardy clause of
the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Our review of a double-jeopardy claim is de novo, due to its constitutional
nature. State v. Lindell, 828 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Iowa 2013). To the extent
Mbonyunkiza claims his sentence was illegal because the court failed to merge
the three offenses (in accordance with Iowa Code section 701.9), our review is at
law. See State v. Perez, 563 N.W.2d 625, 627 (Iowa 1997); see also Iowa Code
§ 701.9 (“No person shall be convicted of a public offense which is necessarily
included in another public offense of which the person is convicted. If the jury
returns a verdict of guilty of more than one offense and such verdict conflicts with
this section, the court shall enter judgment of guilty of the greater of the offenses
only.”); Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.6(2) (“Upon prosecution for a public offense, the
defendant may be convicted of either the public offense charged or an included
offense, but not both.”).
The Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution states that
no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life
or limb.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The clause “protects against successive
2 The State challenges Mbonyunkiza’s error preservation, noting, “Parties cannot ‘predicate error upon the court’s doing the very thing they requested the court to do.’” State v. Means, No. 14-1376, 2015 WL 6509741, at *9 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 28, 2015) (citation omitted). But here, at sentencing, trial counsel requested the court “to run the counts in . . . the sex abuse case . . . concurrent” due to the “single nature of this incident.” Trial counsel acknowledged “it makes sense” to run the sentence for failure to appear consecutive because “that’s a separate charge, separate incident.” We therefore disagree with the State’s contention Mbonyunkiza is now challenging the court’s action in doing what he requested the court do.
prosecutions after acquittal or conviction; and, pertinent to this appeal, it protects
against multiple punishments for the same offense.” Perez, 563 N.W.2d at 627.
The prohibition is based on principles of finality and the prevention of
prosecutorial overreaching. State v. Butler, 505 N.W.2d 806, 807 (Iowa 1993).
Where multiple punishments are imposed pursuant to a single
prosecution, however, application of the Double Jeopardy Clause is limited. The
reason is that the multiple-punishment proscription “does no more than prevent
the sentencing court from prescribing greater punishment than the legislature
intended.” Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359, 366 (1983). Accordingly, “the
question of what punishments are constitutionally permissible is no different from
the question of what punishments the legislature intended to be imposed.” State
v. McKettrick, 480 N.W.2d 52, 57 (Iowa 1992).
The question before us is whether Mbonyunkiza, found to have committed
the single act of sexual assault on D.B., can be sentenced for convictions of
sexual abuse in the third degree,3 neglect of a dependent person,4 and
3 Relevant to Mbonyunkiza’s plea on this charge, Iowa Code section 709.1 provides: Any sex act between persons is sexual abuse by either of the persons when the act is performed with the other person in any of the following circumstances: . . . . 2. Such other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent, or lacks the mental capacity to know the right and wrong of conduct in sexual matters. With regard to the factual basis for the degree of the charge to which Mbonyunkiza pled, “[a] person commits sexual abuse in the third degree when the person performs a sex act [and t]he act is between persons who are not at the time cohabiting as husband and wife and [t]he other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent.” Iowa Code § 709.4(1)(b)(2). 4 The crime of neglect of a dependent person is defined as follows: A person . . . having custody of a . . . person who by reason of mental or physical disability is not able to care for the person’s self, who knowingly or recklessly exposes such person to a hazard or danger
dependent adult abuse.5 In the absence of clear legislative intent to intend
cumulative punishment, we turn to the rule of statutory construction articulated in
Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304 (1932). Namely, “‘where the
same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions,
the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is
whether each provision requires proof of an additional fact which the other does
not.’” Butler, 505 N.W.2d at 807 (quoting Blockburger, 284 U.S. at 304). “If one
crime is a lesser included offense of the other crime, the offenses are the ‘same’
and cumulative punishments cannot be imposed.” State v. Taylor, 596 N.W.2d
55, 57 (Iowa 1999).
But if one offense is not included within the other, there is a presumption that multiple punishments can be assessed. The lesser included offense is necessarily included in the greater offense if it is impossible to commit the greater offense without also committing the lesser offense. If the lesser offense includes an element that is not required for the greater offense, the lesser is not included in the greater.
against which such person cannot reasonably be expected to protect such person’s self . . . , knowing or having reason to believe that the person will be exposed to such hazard or danger, commits a class “C” felony. Iowa Code § 726.3. 5 The crime of dependent adult abuse is defined as: “Any of the following as a result of the willful or negligent acts or omissions of a caretaker: . . . . The commission of a sexual offense under chapter 709 or section 726.2 with or against a dependent adult.” Iowa Code § 235B.2(5)(a)(1)(b). “Caretaker” is defined as “a related or nonrelated person who has the responsibility for the protection, care, or custody of a dependent adult as a result of assuming the responsibility voluntarily, by contract, through employment, or by order of the court.” Id. § 235B.2(1). “Dependent adult” is defined as “a person eighteen years of age or older who is unable to protect the person’s own interests or unable to adequately perform or obtain services necessary to meet essential human needs, as a result of a physical or mental condition which requires assistance from another, or as defined by departmental rule.” Id. § 235B.2(4). Section 235B.20(4) further provides: “A caretaker who intentionally commits dependent adult abuse on a dependent adult in violation of this chapter is guilty of a class ‘C’ felony if the intentional dependent adult abuse results in physical injury.”
Id. (citations omitted); see also State v. Miller, 841 N.W.2d 583, 587-88 (Iowa
2014) (“The test we have settled on to determine whether a crime is a lesser
included offense of a greater crime generally inquires ‘whether the greater
offense cannot be committed without also committing all elements of the lesser
offense.’” (citation omitted)).
Mbonyunkiza contends sexual abuse in the third degree is a lesser
included offense of neglect of a dependent person and dependent adult abuse.
Because it is possible to commit neglect of a dependent person without
committing sexual abuse in the third degree and to commit dependent adult
abuse without committing sexual abuse in the third degree, Mbonyunkiza’s
challenge fails. For instance, it is possible to commit neglect of a dependent
person without committing the other two offenses if the perpetrator is the victim’s
husband and the victim is under eighteen years of age or does not suffer an
injury. It is possible to commit dependent adult abuse but not the other two
offenses if the perpetrator is married to the adult victim but while she has the
capacity to consent to sex she cannot perform certain physical or financial tasks
for herself. Because it is possible to commit one offense without committing the
other, Mbonyunkiza’s challenge fails.
Mbonyunkiza also challenges the district court’s imposition of “the
maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison.” Specifically, Mbonyunkiza
claims because three of the four counts were “all for one act,” the court should
have imposed concurrent sentences for those counts rather than consecutive
sentences. Our review is for an abuse of discretion. State v. Thompson, 856
N.W.2d 915, 918 (Iowa 2014).
We have already concluded in our analysis of Mbonyunkiza’s double
jeopardy and merger claims that there were separate offenses. Imposing
consecutive sentences on multiple convictions arising from the same transaction
is within the prerogative of the sentencing court. See State v. Criswell, 242
N.W.2d 259, 261 (Iowa 1976) (“Iowa statutes allow imposition of consecutive
sentences for convictions obtained under the circumstances presented [separate
offenses committed in the course of a single transaction].”); see also Taylor, 596
N.W.2d at 57 (“The decision to impose consecutive sentences was
discretionary.”). Here, in sentencing Mbonyunkiza, the district court stated:
I appreciate your acceptance of responsibility by your pleas of guilty and by the statements you’ve made. But with responsibility comes accountability, and we are accountable for our actions. The problems afflicting you are serious. I understand that from what you’ve said and the presentence investigation report, but I believe the problems that you suffer from and afflictions that you may have can best be treated in an atmosphere that allows for the maximum protection of the public from further criminal activity by you. The offenses of sex abuse in the third degree, neglect of a dependent person, dependent adult abuse all are horrible offenses. They not only show a massive deviation from proper and decent human behavior, but an utter disregard for a person you are charged with caring for. This design and devious abuse of a person totally unable to care for herself and a person especially defenseless against the sexual assault perpetrated upon her is particularly heinous. In addition, your voluntary absence and flight from this jurisdiction illustrates your contempt for the law. Your actions taken together with all of the factors the Court must consider by law lends itself to the conclusion that society deserves and expects protection from you for as long as possible to allow necessary steps, if you are willing, for your treatment for whatever you are suffering from or what afflictions you have. You, as much as anyone, have observed and endured firsthand terrible cruelty that can come from the hands of humans.
You, more than anyone, should appreciate the pain and suffering not only the victims of such cruelty or such abuse and heinous crimes, but also what happens to those who are the loved ones who are left to weep and suffer and mourn. You came to the United States to seek asylum and enjoy the freedoms and protection of our laws, our people and the government of the people. And even though this was all provided to you, the acts you have committed have caused that freedom now to be limited, soon to be taken away.
Mbonyunkiza again requested the court order his sentences to run
concurrent, to which the court responded:
The Court has considered the request made by the defendant and defendant’s counsel. The request is hereby denied. For the reasons as previously stated, the Court finds, again, these crimes are so horrible and heinous as to require protection of the public, and the Court intends to do just that. . . . . The Court, again, has considered all the circumstances and all the factors involved. Particularly aggravating is the fact that this offense was committed upon a person who was totally defenseless, totally unable to give consent, let alone to fend off the actions of the defendant, and that this defendant, as you stated, came to the United States to seek asylum, to seek a new life for himself, to seek freedom, to be protected from the genocide he escaped from and yet decided, for whatever reason, to commit this heinous offense— offenses. I can’t think of another case or set of circumstances that could require the sentence imposed as I have done so than this.
We discern no abuse of discretion in the district court’s statement of reasons and imposition of consecutive sentences. We affirm Mbonyunkiza’s convictions and sentences for sexual abuse in the third degree, neglect of a dependent person, dependent adult abuse, and failure to appear.
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