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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Chicago man accused of trying to kill a Linn County sheriff’s deputy by firing 10 rounds at him while fleeing a Coggon robbery asked a judge Friday to move his case out of the county and to split off a charge against him so he’d get a fair trial.
Stanley L. Donahue, 36, is charged with attempted murder of a peace officer, two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of false imprisonment, willful injury, attempt to elude, disarming a peace officer, trafficking in stolen weapons and possession of a firearm as a felon.
He is accused of robbing the Casey’s General Store at 5110 Highway 13 in Coggon on June 22 — forcing two clerks in a cooler, stealing cash, cigarette cartons and personal belongings, according to a criminal complaint, and then firing at Deputy William Halverson, 38, as the deputy responded to an alarm.
The seven-year employee of the Sheriff’s Office was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was wearing a protective vest, but was badly injured.
Peter Stiefel, one of Donahue’s defense lawyers, argued at a hearing Friday that Donahue would be prejudiced if a jury heard he already had a felony conviction. One of the current charges against him is possession of a firearm by a felon. Stiefel asked 6th Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns to sever that count from the others, and have a separate trial to avoid prejudice.
Stiefel acknowledged there isn’t a rule about severing the charge, but said it was up to the discretion of the court. If jurors learn Donahue was previously convicted of a felony, they may be predisposed to believe he has a violent nature, Stiefel added.
The prosecution, in a written argument, asked the court to not sever the charge for “judicial economy” — to have one trial instead of two, and not make the same witnesses testify twice.
Any “nominal benefits” consolidating the charges for one trial are “clearly and substantially outweighed” by the prejudice of disclosing the defendant’s previous felony conviction to the jury, Stiefel said in his written argument.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Molly Edwards said there is no need to tell the jury of Donahue’s criminal history. There is case law that limits what can be said anyway. The jury would know he’s a felon, but the court could prohibit naming the type of offense.
The Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals have repeatedly affirmed cases in which charges of a felon in possession of a firearm are not severed from other charges.
In four of the charges against Donahue, the prosecution would have to prove he had a firearm; three charges would require that he had a dangerous weapon; and two counts could not be explained without the defendant having a firearm, Edwards said in her written argument.
Defense attorney John Bruzek, arguing to move the trial out of Linn County, submitted numerous exhibits of articles from newspapers and television stations about Donahue’s charges and about Halverson being shot in the left hip and leg.
Bruzek argued it would be impossible for Donahue to get a fair trial in Linn County because the charges involve a deputy getting shot — which doesn’t happen often — and some TV stations reported live on the scene that day about a 14-hour manhunt to capture Donahue after the robbery. It was “media blitz,” he said.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office sent out tweets about the incident and deputy, which are seen by Linn County residents — the possible jury pool, Bruzek noted.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, looking up the sheriff’s Twitter page, said it had about 3,800 followers, which is “small amount” for a Twitter account.
Even with the exhibits, “media blitz” is an exaggeration, Maybanks said. He wasn’t aware of any news outlet livestreaming the manhunt. The legal standard requires there be a showing of actual prejudice, he said, but no actual prejudice has occurred.
There was a lot of news coverage initially about the robbery and Donahue’s capture, and later when Halvorson left the hospital and received an award from the Sheriff’s Office. None of them are inflammatory, Maybanks argued.
Bruns said he would take the arguments under advisement and file a written ruling soon.
If convicted of all 10 charges, Donahue faces up to 112 years in prison with a mandatory 65 years to serve before being eligible for parole. Donahue remains in jail under a $2.5 million bail.
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