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Former youth counselor convicted of sex abuse will be allowed to withdraw guilty plea
Judge denies probation, which was part of plea agreement
CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge this week did not grant suspended sentences to a former Four Oaks youth counselor convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, saying it would be illegal.
Danielle V. Hook, 29, formerly of Marion, pleaded guilty in March to third-degree sexual abuse and sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist. She admitted in the plea to sexually abusing and exploiting a 14-year-old boy in 2018.
The plea agreement was for a joint recommendation from the prosecution and defense that Hook receive suspended sentences on the 10 years for sexual abuse and five years for exploitation and be sentenced to probation.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Chad Kepros, in his order filed Wednesday, said Hook wasn’t eligible for suspended sentences because she was a mandatory reporter of child abuse and the victim was younger than 18. The court would instead require up to 15 years in prison for her sentences, in accordance with Iowa law.
Hook was set to be sentenced Tuesday but the sentencing was continued. Kepros met with the prosecution and defense in chambers and informed them the court wasn’t approving the plea agreement on sentencing, according to his order.
David Fiester, Hook’s lawyer, said he would be filing a motion in arrest of judgment on the basis that the plea agreement for suspended sentences is illegal and the court wouldn’t agree to the plea deal.
Basically, Hook, by filing the motion, will ask for her guilty plea to be withdrawn, which usually isn’t allowed, except in limited circumstances.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Israel Kodagu, who is prosecuting this case for the state, told the judge he wouldn’t resist the motion.
Kepros said he would grant the unresisted motion and allow Hook to withdraw her guilty plea, despite the “untimeliness” of the motion. He gave the defense 10 days to file the motion in writing.
Once Kepros grants the motion, the trial will be reset.
Hook had sexual contact with the teenager from July 1, 2017, through Nov. 30, 2018, while she was employed as a counselor and in a position of authority over male youths at Four Oaks in Cedar Rapids, according to a criminal complaint.
After Hook was fired from Four Oaks, it was discovered the teen was living with her in Marion when juvenile authorities were searching for him, according to an investigation by the Iowa Department of Human Services and Juvenile Court Services.
Investigators also discovered Hook gave birth to the teenager’s child, which was confirmed by a DNA test, the complaint stated. The teen is now 16, according to authorities.
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