DES MOINES — The Iowa Court of Appeals has rejected a Wapello County man’s claim a 25-year sentence for first-degree robbery was cruel and unusual because of his age.
Tsegay was charged with first-degree murder in the death fo Christian Madueno. The plea bargain he struck with prosecutors dismissed that charge, which could have meant life in prison, for the guilty plea to robbery. The sentence requires him to serve at least 75 percent of the prison term.
Tsegay arrived in the United States as a refugee from Eritrea with his parents. His appeal argued that and the fact he was 18 at the time of the killing were mitigating factors that should have resulted in a lighter sentence.
In 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that mandatory minimum sentences for underage offenders “are cruel and unusual punishment.” The line between juvenile offenses and adult crimes is drawn when the defendant is 18 years old. The appeals court rejected Tsegay’s bid to extend that prohibition to 18-year-olds, saying the state supreme court has already settled the issue.
The court found that Tsegay “would need to show he was similarly situated to juvenile offenders” in order to show he should have been treated in the same manner.
“Based on the current law in Iowa, Tsegay has not met the threshold test of showing he, as an eighteen-year-old, is similarly situated to an offender who is seventeen years old. Because Tsegay has failed to meet this threshold requirement, we find he has not shown his equal protection rights were violated,” the court ruled.
The opinion, released Thursday, also found the sentence Tsegay received was proportionate to the crime to which he pleaded guilty:
“We determine Tsegay has not shown the sentence as applied to him constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”