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IOWA CITY — An Iowa City man who helped organize Black Lives Matter events pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges after injuring police officers by shining laser light beams in their eyes during 2020 protests in Iowa City.
Matthew D.C. Bruce, 26, originally charged with six felony counts of assault on persons of certain occupations causing bodily injury, pleaded to two counts of assault causing bodily injury, which are serious misdemeanors, and three counts of assault, which are simple misdemeanors.
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said the prosecution will ask a judge to sentence Bruce to 180 days in jail but suspend 150 days, leaving him with 30 days to serve.
On the simple assault charges, Lyness will ask for 30 days on each to run concurrently to the 180-day sentence.
The defense plans to ask the court for a deferred judgment and probation, according to Bruce’s written plea.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Andrew Chappell accepted Bruce’s written plea and set sentencing for July 22.
Lyness said she was “happy to resolve the case and move forward.” She declined further comment.
According to criminal complaints, Bruce was near the University of Iowa president's home at Church and Clinton streets during a protest when he was seen by police at 8:28 p.m. Aug. 31, 2020, shining a laser beam light into officers' eyes.
Multiple officers were injured and required medical treatment, the complaints stated.
Bruce wasn’t arrested at the time but was seen later around 11:36 p.m. on the UI Pentacrest, again shining a laser light into officers' eyes. He was arrested a few minutes later.
Bruce was identified in multiple news reports as an organizer of the Des Moines Black Liberation Movement, a group that had organized protests in Des Moines following the death of George Floyd, 46, who was killed while in custody by former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin was convicted last year of causing Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, and sentenced to 22 years in prison. He also has pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Floyd’s civil rights and faces 20 to 25 years in federal prison.
Last year, Judge Paul Miller ruled prosecutors had violated Bruce’s right to a speedy trial by waiting 46 days after his arrest to file a formal charging document, which was one day past the deadline. He tossed out nine felony charges but allowed the other charges, which were filed by prosecutors after Bruce’s arrest, to stand.
Bruce also pleaded last year in Polk County to first-degree criminal mischief stemming from damage he and others did to a police vehicle in a June 2020 protest outside a grocery store in Des Moines. He received a deferred judgment and two years probation in that case, according to court documents.
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