Public Safety

Judge sends 16-year-old charged with sexually assaulting 15-year-old girl to juvenile court

Judge relies on juvenile court officer's evaluation

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge transferred a sexual assault case to juvenile court, ruling late Thursday that the accused 16-year-old Fairfax boy will have sufficient time to complete sex offender treatment and programming before his 18th birthday.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner based his ruling on the testimony of Valerie Dufoe, a 24-year veteran juvenile court officer, who testified Wednesday that Dionte G. Fliss is at low risk to reoffend and would be “amenable and cooperate” with the court’s programs if he found guilty of third-degree sexual abuse.

Fliss is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl Oct. 13, 2019, in Fairfax. The girl told authorities Fliss forced her to perform a sex act against her will, according to a criminal complaint.

The charge was filed in adult court because it’s a forcible felony, which are excluded from juvenile court, unless a district court judge transfers the case to juvenile court for good cause, according to Iowa Code 803.6.

Turner, in his ruling, said he found good cause, based on testimony, exhibits and evidence, to transfer the case to juvenile court. Fliss was ordered to report to the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center today. He will remain there pending an initial hearing in juvenile court.

The charge is a forcible felony, so further proceedings will remain in public court records. Typically, almost all juvenile court filings are not accessible, except to the judge and parties involved.

A juvenile judge will hear the case and rule on it.

Turner, in the ruling, said the crux of the issue is whether there would be enough time to rehabilitate Fliss by his 18th birthday, and he believed Dufoe was “uniquely informed and experienced” in her position to make that determination.

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During Wednesday’s hearing, Dufoe said she would recommend outpatient treatment for Fliss, which usually takes six to nine months, but she said Fliss could complete it in five to seven months.

Dufoe said Fliss is an honor roll student, involved in sports and a student leadership program, has no mental health issues or previous criminal history and has a supportive family, all of whom would help him in his rehabilitation.

Dufoe said 95 percent of juveniles who go through sex offender treatment and programming don’t reoffend.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden argued during the hearing there would be more time for rehabilitation in adult court, and a district judge has broader options for sentencing. Fliss, if convicted, could have received a deferred judgment, suspended sentence and probation or prison time. Probation could be ordered for up to five years, which would ensure time for rehabilitation, he said.

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

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