Public Safety

Cedar Rapids man faces sex abuse charge for 2017 attack

Man was already in custody on an unrelated charge of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse

IOWA CITY — A Cedar Rapids man in jail on an assault charge is accused of sexually abusing a woman last fall.

According to an Iowa City police criminal complaint, 29-year-old Fitsum H.B. Russell — a registered sex offender — approached a woman in the 300 block of East College Street in Iowa City in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2017. Police said the woman didn’t know Russell and told him she was going home, to which he responded, “No, you are not.”

The victim reported to police that Russell grabbed her by the arm and pushed her, causing her to hit her head on a brick wall. Police said the woman was then pushed or fell to the ground and Russell got on top of her. The woman was able to scream for help and when people came, Russell fled from the scene, police said.

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Investigators were able to get a DNA sample from where Russell kissed the woman’s neck. The DNA profile developed matched Russell’s, police said. There is a 1 in 190 quadrillion chance the DNA belongs to someone other than Russell, authorities said.

Russell now faces one count of third-degree sexual abuse, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He was already in custody on an unrelated charge of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse causing bodily injury, a Class D felony. The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety said that around 4:30 a.m. Sept. 23, 2017, in the 1100 block of North Dubuque Street, Russell held a woman down against her will and tried to commit a sex act on her. The woman suffered scraped knees in the attack, police said.

According to court records filed last month, a plea hearing in that case was scheduled for Tuesday. However, documents filed on Monday indicate the plea hearing was canceled and a case management conference is now set for April 20.

Russell is listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry for exposing himself to a woman in Linn County in June 2010.

If Russell is convicted of both charges, he would face up to 15 years in prison.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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