Hook seeks to withdraw plea

CLINTON — A motion in arrest of judgement or motion to withdraw plea has been filed for a man set to be sentenced today on a felony drug charge.

Marcus A. Hook, 23, 68 20th Ave. North, appeared May 17 in Clinton County District Court and pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, namely methamphetamine, a Class C felony. The plea agreement says the State will recommend a 10-year prison sentence and the minimum fine, surcharges, costs and attorney fees. Sentencing was set for 9 a.m. today. An oral motion by attorney Les Blair to withdraw as Hook’s attorney, due to new employment, was granted. Attorney Jack Wolfe was appointed to represent Hook.

Wolfe on Friday filed the motion to arrest judgement or withdraw the plea, alleging that when reviewing police reports and the video recording of Hook’s arrest, it became apparent the traffic stop was made without probable cause. The motion states an officer initiated a traffic stop of Hook’s vehicle based on his observation that the vehicle had a tinted rear license plate cover. Wolfe states Hook’s rear license plate was covered by a very slightly tinted cover. The motion states it is not a violation of Iowa law to operate a motor vehicle with a tinted rear plate cover.

The motion continues that while it is a violation of Iowa law to operate a vehicle with a license plate frame or cover not permitting full view of all numerals and letters printed on the registration plate, the officer did not indicate in his report that his view of Hook’s license plate was in any way obstructed by the cover. Wolfe states the body camera video recordings of the traffic stop document Hook’s rear license plate cover permitted full view of all numerals and letters.

Wolfe continues in the motion that the officer’s mistaken belief Hook was violating state law did not constitute probable cause for initiating a traffic stop. After initiating the traffic stop, the officer determined Hook’s driving privileges were suspended, arrested Hook and transported him to the Clinton County Jail. Hook was searched as part of the routine booking process and was found to be in possession of methamphetamine.

Wolfe alleges in the motion that the traffic stop violated Hook’s right against unreasonable search and seizure as protected by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The motion states that Hook seeks to withdraw his guilty plea on the grounds his original attorney failed to investigate and litigate an obvious and straightforward suppression issue, which rendered Hook’s plea involuntary and unknowing.

“There is no good reason for defendant’s original attorney to have allowed the traffic stop to go unchallenged,” Wolfe states in the motion.

The motion alleges Hook’s original attorney did not inform Hook the traffic stop was illegal, did not discuss the option of challenging the traffic stop and, to the best of Hook’s knowledge, did not review the video documenting the traffic stop.

“Had the defendant been aware that the traffic stop was illegal and that, if challenged, any evidence resulting from the traffic stop would have been held to be inadmissible against defendant, defendant would not have accepted the plea agreement filed herein and would not have entered a guilty plea to any charge,” Wolfe states in the motion.

The motion states Wolfe acknowledged more than 45 days have passed since the guilty plea. He noted more than five days remained before Hook’s scheduled sentencing hearing at the time the motion was filed. Wolfe requested the court grant the motion in arrest of judgement, despite the late filing, in the interests of justice and avoiding the time and expense associated with the post-conviction action “that will inevitably be filed if defendant is not allowed to withdraw his guilty plea based on counsel’s late filing of this motion.”

Wolfe is seeking a hearing on the motion.