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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Chicago man accused of firing 10 rounds at a Linn County sheriff’s deputy while fleeing a convenience store robbery in Coggon asked a judge for a second time Wednesday to move his trial out of Linn County, but the judge denied the motion.
Peter Stiefel, lawyer for Stanley L. Donahue, 38, argued at the hearing it would be difficult to find a fair and impartial jury in Linn County because the deputy, William Halverson, who was shot while responding to the June 22, 2021, robbery, had been portrayed in some news articles as a “superhero.”
The Coggon mayor even called Halverson a “superhero,” he said.
Stiefel also cited articles where Halverson said people in the community had supported him and brought meals to his family after he got out of the hospital.
Those comments show the community was aware of the crime, Stiefel added.
Stiefel also said several news articles mentioned Donahue’s charges without stating his presumption of innocence and detailed the allegations against him as if they were true.
Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks argued that most of the reports that the defense cited were social media posts or comments on the news articles. And those don’t show the “reach” of the stories — who is writing the comments or where they live. The number of those comments are “minor” compared to Linn County’s population, he said.
Maybanks did allow it might be more of an issue if any Coggon people are in the jury pool because it’s a smaller community and they might be familiar with Halverson.
He didn’t know how many news articles mentioned Halverson being a “superhero” but said he thinks it may have been only two.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns denied the defense’s motion, saying he had reviewed all the materials the defense submitted but still thinks a fair and impartial jury can be seated if a large jury pool is called.
Bruns in December 2021 denied the first change-of- venue motion.
On Wednesday, Bruns cited another case that had a lot of publicity before trial and finding only four or five potential jurors had heard of the case during jury selection.
“Most people don’t follow the local news or the national news in some cases,” Bruns said. “Consumption of the news is way down.”
Bruns said he would allow the defense to renew its motion for a change of venue if it’s found during jury selection that a number of people have heard about the case or have an opinion on the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
Donahue 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.
Donahue is accused of robbing the Casey’s General Store on Highway 13 in Coggon on June 22, 2021, forcing two clerks into a cooler and stealing cash, cigarette cartons and personal belongings, according to a criminal complaint. He is accused of firing 10 rounds at Halverson when the deputy responded to the 10:19 p.m. alarm.
Halverson, who had been a deputy for seven years at the time, was wearing a protective vest but suffered two gunshot wounds in the hip and leg.
Donahue was captured after an overnight 14-hour search that involved drones and police dogs and ended when a TV news crew spotted him walking along Highway 13 near Coggon and notified authorities.
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 bond.
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