Des Moines, Iowa — A Hawarden man who was sentenced to prison in April after pleading guilty to child endangerment charges will get to be re-sentenced as the result of an appeal to the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Matthew Spaans, along with his wife, Nina, each pled guilty to four counts of Child Endangerment in Sioux County District Court. According to the Sioux County Attorney’s Office, the prosecution had recommended that the couple each be sentenced to a four-year prison term. Although the Court followed that recommendation for Matthew Spaans, his wife received a suspended sentence, allowing her to serve a period of probation with the possibility that she resides at the residential treatment facility in Sioux City, as determined by her probation officer.
Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle said the sentences stemmed from a case that arose in February of last year when the couple’s children began telling authorities that various injuries they had received over the last two and a half years were inflicted by Matthew Spaans. Kunstle says that all children were removed from the couple’s home at that time.
Before February 2017, Kunstle says the children were claiming their injuries were caused by accidental means, though some were, according to medical authorities, clearly inflicted. He says the children were fearful of telling the truth as their mother, Nina Spaans, threatened they would never see each other again. Nina reportedly further directed them to share false explanations for their injuries when questioned by school officials.
Matthew Spaans, like Nina Spaans, had also asked for a suspended sentence, but the court denied that request. Matthew Spaans appealed the sentence. He contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his plea counsel failed to object to the State’s alleged breach of the plea agreement. He also contended the district court considered improper factors during sentencing and he challenged a portion of the sentencing order related to appellate attorney fees. The appeals court agreed with him. They said that since he was not pleading guilty to any counts involving bodily injury, and only child endangerment, that the sentence should not have referenced the injuries.
In their opinion, they stated, “The district court’s reference to the injuries during the imposition of the sentences requires us to vacate the defendant’s sentences and remand the case to the district court for resentencing before a different judge consistent with this opinion.”
They said, “Because we conclude the district court relied upon an improper factor during sentencing, we vacate the defendant’s sentences and remand for resentencing.”