Public Safety

Cedar Rapids man accused of sex abuse denied a lower bail for second time

Judge rules against it based on his criminal history

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge Tuesday denied the second request for reduced bail of a Cedar Rapids man who was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to sexual assault because another judge failed to provide the correct consequences of the plea.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover denied lowering a $25,000 cash-only bail to $15,000 cash or surety as Gene A. Nelson, 25, who is charged with third-degree sexual abuse, had requested during a bond review hearing.

Wallace Taylor, Nelson’s lawyer, argued Nelson was entitled to have another bond review because he withdrew his Alford plea to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse causing bodily injury after Chief Judge Patrick Grady ruled Senior Judge Robert Sosalla and Taylor misadvised Nelson that he would only have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, instead of life, which is the requirement.

In making an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his innocence but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nelson, during a hearing in April, said he wouldn’t have pleaded if he had known it was for life.

Grady, in the ruling, said Nelson’s plea was neither knowing nor voluntary.

Taylor, during the bail hearing, also argued that Nelson had been in jail for over a year. Bail wasn’t meant to be punishment but to ensure a defendant’s court appearance, he noted.

Nelson, while on pretrial release in this case, removed his GPS monitor but he didn’t leave the area, Taylor said.

“It was a stupid mistake,” he added.

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Assistant Linn County Attorney Rene Schulte asked for the bail to remain as is, and questioned why another bond review was allowed. Nelson had one May 22, and a judge denied it and left it at $25,000.

Schulte argued that when Nelson removed his GPS monitor and went missing for months, he caused several other law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, to be involved in tracking down Nelson.

According to a criminal complaint, a woman told police Nelson grabbed her by the neck, assaulted her and forced her to have sex on Aug. 5, 2018, at residence in Cedar Rapids. But Nelson in December 2018 posted bail and then was charged in a separate forgery case March 21, 2019. He failed to appear for an April 1 hearing.

A pretrial release report showed Nelson removed his GPS ankle bracelet April 1. The ankle monitor was tracked to a dumpster at Nelson’s apartment complex, but the probation officer was unable to retrieve it because of the amount of trash. Officers attempted to contact Nelson, but his whereabouts were unknown until mid-June 2019 when U.S. marshals received a phone tip.

Nelson was highlighted as fugitive of the week to announce a new Marshals Service app, and they received a tip that led to Nelson’s arrest.

Hoover ruled that a lower bail wasn’t appropriate based on Nelson’s criminal history, which includes theft, willful injury causing bodily injury, domestic abuse, forgery and failures to appear, and his “activity of tampering with his GPS monitor” while on previous release.

Nelson’s trial is set for Sept. 21 in Linn County District Court.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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