Francisco Villa Magana v. State of Iowa

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA No. 20-1653 Filed October 19, 2022 FRANCISCO VILLA MAGANA, Applicant-Appellant, vs. STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee. ________________________________________________________________ Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Marshall County, Bethany J. Currie, Judge. A postconviction-relief applicant appeals the dismissal of his actual- innocence claim. REVERSED AND REMANDED. John L. Dirks of Dirks Law Firm, Nevada, for appellant. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State. Considered by Bower, C.J., and Tabor and Chicchelly, JJ. 2 TABOR, Judge. At age sixteen, Francisco Villa Magana pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in the second degree as a youthful offender. That was March 1999. Eighteen years later, Villa sought postconviction relief (PCR), alleging “[s]ome witnesses have changed their story since I pleaded guilty.” The district court dismissed that claim as time barred. On appeal, Villa argues that he should have had a chance to prove that his freestanding claim of actual innocence fell within the exception to the statute of limitations under Iowa Code section 822.3 (2017). Because the court did not comply with the requirements of section 822.6(2) in dismissing Villa’s claims, we reverse and remand for further proceedings. I. Facts and Prior Proceedings In February 1999, the State charged Villa with sexual abuse in the second degree, a class “B” felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.3 (1997).1 The trial information alleged that Villa, then fifteen years old, aided and abetted a sex act with J.P., a fourteen-year-old girl, by force or against her will along with two other teenaged boys. Villa entered a plea agreement in which he would transfer to adult court and be treated as a youthful offender. At the plea hearing, Villa admitted that he and two friends were in the basement with J.P., urging her to participate in sex acts, but she declined. Villa described how the three boys then forced her to have sex as she said “this is not right.” After his guilty plea, the district court deferred sentence and placed Villa on youthful offender status. 1 The case was numbered FECR047456. 3 Fast forward to 2010. As a convicted sex offender, Villa pleaded guilty to failure to register.2 He received a two-year suspended sentence. The district court revoked his probation a year later, and he was sent to prison. Then, in 2015, Villa challenged his obligation to register as a sex offender as an illegal sentence, claiming it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The district court denied the motion, and our court affirmed. See State v. Villa, No. 16-0186, 2017 WL 108467, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2017). Villa commenced this PCR action, without counsel, in 2017.3 He included these grounds for relief: I was told that pleading guilty would not cause me a problem for immigration. After my postconviction application was dismissed, I was scheduled to be released and I was taken into custody by immigration officials for purpose of deportation. Some witnesses have changed their stories since …

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