The Ottumwa Courier

August 8, 2013

State court rejects Appanoose man's appeal of jail time

By MATT MILNER Ottumwa Courier
Ottumwa Courier

---- — CENTERVILLE — The state’s appeals court has rejected an Appanoose County man’s appeal against being held in jail despite a plea bargain that didn’t involve jail time.

Kenneth Kramer was charged with multiple offenses following what court documents describe as a “physical altercation with his brother.” Kramer pleaded guilty to willful injury causing bodily injury in exchange for dismissal of all remaining charges.

The plea bargain included a five-year suspended sentence, no contact orders and the possibility of placement in a residential treatment facility. It did not include any specific length of probation.

In making the plea bargain, Kramer agreed to immediate sentencing.

The district court placed Kramer on probation for five years. Documents show it also ordered him held in jail “until a bed became available at the residential treatment facility.” That’s what Kramer appealed, since the plea bargain he reached with prosecutors didn’t include jail time or probation.

Iowa law allows judges to depart from the terms of a plea bargain, but they may not abuse that discretion. The appeals court relied on a 1995 case in which appeals must show the sentence “was based on clearly untenable grounds or reasons, or the court exercised its discretion to an extent clearly unreasonable,” in order to be successful.

The ruling pointed to two parts of the district court record in finding against Kramer. In the first, the judge said the sentence, “is based on what I believe would best rehabilitate you and at the same time protect the community from further offenses by you and others.” The appeals court said that statement applies to the sentence as a whole.

The district court judge also pointed to Kramer’s “lengthy record,” and told him, “you’re getting a great deal here in terms of probation and other counts being dismissed.” The appeals court said that reflects the judge’s consideration of multiple factors in the case and provided adequate reason for the probation and jail term.