The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the domestic assault conviction of an Ames man, but also left open an avenue of appeal. Emmanuel Fountain’s girlfriend Levita Alexander decided she wanted to end the relationship and had come to the Ames apartment to get her things.

Police later received a call on that December night in 2006 that said Fountain had assaulted Alexander. A jury found Fountain guilty of the assault. Fountain appealed the conviction, saying he received ineffective assistance from his lawyer, because the lawyer did not ask the judge to instruct the jury that assault requires a specific intent to do harm to a person.

The Iowa Supreme Court found that the trial court’s failure to give a specific intent instruction was an error — but the High Court says it could not determine whether Fountain’s counsel was ineffective, because it could not tell the strategy the lawyer was using. The court says Fountain never disputed that multiple physical encounters occurred, but said it cannot determine whether the defense strategy was to deny that any assault occurred and argue that Alexander simply made up the assault for reasons related to the custody of their son — or to contend that the alleged injuries were merely the unintended byproduct of a consensual sexual encounter.

The High Court upheld the assault conviction, while leaving opening the possibility of a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for postconviction relief base on the presentation of further information.