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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — More that eight months after large protests outside the University of Iowa’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity caused $200,000 in damages, police arrested on felony charges a woman they say was captured on video forcing her way through the house’s front door.
Jayla Joseph, 20, was arrested May 9 on a charge of second- degree criminal mischief and third-degree burglary, both Class D felonies. Joseph, who court records show lives in West Des Moines, is a UI student, she wrote on social media. She later posted a $5,000 bond and was released from jail.
Protesters converged on the fraternity, which calls itself FIJI, starting Aug. 31, 2021, after an online petition alleging the house was the scene of a sexual assault sparked outrage on campus.
Makena Solberg, a UI student, said she was assaulted at the FIJI house while she was incapacitated on Sept. 4-5, 2020, and that police still had not made any arrests in the case at that time.
Solberg filed a lawsuit Oct. 26, 2021, in Johnson County District Court and named Carson Steffen and Jacob Meloan as the defendants. Both of the FIJU members said in responses to the lawsuit that they had sexual relations with Solberg, but they were consensual.
In December 2021, Iowa City police arrested Steffen, of North Liberty, on a charge of first-degree harassment, an aggravated misdemeanor. Police did not charge him with the alleged assault, but said he sent “a photo to multiple persons on Snapchat” of the incident with another male. Steffen has pleaded not guilty.
For three nights of protests starting Aug, 31, 2021, thousands of students flooded the streets around the FIJI house and broke in. Cars were flipped over, and the mailbox and security camera were also damaged. On the same night, a house on Iowa Avenue was damaged as people threw rocks and stood on the roof.
The protests caused more than $200,000 to the FIJI house and displaced 28 members.
Joseph admitted she partook in the protest that occurred outside the FIJI house, according to a criminal complaint. The court record said she was seen on video holding property including plaques and photos from the inside of the house, as well as destroying a large composite photo from inside the residence.
The Iowa City Police Department still is asking witnesses to the protest to come forward.
“We continue to try to identify those that were involved in criminal acts during the protests, and we would ask anyone that has any information including security camera or cellphone footage to contact us,” said Lee Hermiston, a police department spokesman.
The jury trial for Solberg’s lawsuit is set for July 11, 2023, at the Johnson County Courthouse. Steffen has filed a counterclaim against her, saying she falsely accused of him of sexual assault and defamed him.
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