IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A white man who intentionally sped his car by way of a crowd of racial injustice protesters in Iowa City, placing a number of, will keep away from jail and have the incident erased from his file if he stays out of hassle for 3 years.
A decide final month granted a deferred judgment for Michael Ray Stepanek, 45, who told police he drove his Toyota Camry by way of the gang in August as a result of the protesters wanted “an attitude adjustment.”
The sentence means a felony cost of willful harm leading to bodily harm towards Stepanek will probably be dismissed and expunged, so long as he doesn’t commit against the law throughout a three-year time period of probation. Judge Paul Miller additionally suspended a $1,025 civil tremendous.
Offenders who commit “forcible felonies” are usually not eligible for deferred judgments, however the cost to which Stepanek pleaded shouldn’t be thought-about one below Iowa regulation. He was additionally eligible for the break as a result of he didn’t have a prison historical past.
One of the protesters he hit stated Friday that she advocated for no jail sentence, however that she wasn’t conscious the case may disappear from the general public file.
“I think it’s dangerous to have this kind of case occur and just wipe it away,” stated University of Iowa pupil Eva Sileo. She stated it was irritating to see protesters face harsh expenses in different circumstances whereas Stepanek will get leniency.
Stepanek’s lawyer John Bruzek stated his shopper was influenced by social media and political rhetoric characterizing the protesters as harmful criminals. Stepanek initially believed he was legally justified however has come to see he was incorrect and apologized, Bruzek stated.
“Michael understands how his conduct could have resulted in a much more serious and harmful situation,” he stated.
The Johnson County Attorney’s Office, which agreed to Stepanek’s plea deal, continues to be pursuing expenses towards some Black Lives Matter protesters concerned within the demonstrations final summer time.
Prosecutors have filed 15 counts, together with 9 felonies, towards a protest leader charged with shining a laser beam gentle in law enforcement officials’ eyes in August.
A 20-year-old Black protester who carried an assault rifle by way of an Iowa City crowd in June has been indicted on a federal cost of illegally possessing a gun whereas utilizing marijuana. The man, who faces as much as 10 years in jail, had already been prosecuted by Johnson County on associated expenses after the gun was discovered throughout a site visitors cease following the protest.
Separately in Des Moines, prosecutors are pursuing felony leak charges towards two protesters accused of stealing an intelligence bulletin from an officer and giving it to a tv reporter.
Stepanek’s violence got here throughout a downtown Iowa City protest organized by the Iowa Freedom Riders, whose members have been pushing for modifications to policing for months. Police fired tear gas on them in June, outraging metropolis leaders.
Police say Stepanek turned enraged when he was stopped behind different automobiles after protesters blocked an intersection. He honked his horn then made a U-turn, squealing his tires to show round.
Then, he shut off his lights, drove across the block, and turned onto a downtown avenue the place there have been no automobiles between him and the protesters, police say. Video exhibits his automobile placing a number of protesters, dragging one on his hood, earlier than dashing off.
Sileo, 21, recalled pushing others out of the best way of the car earlier than ending up on its hood. She stated her leg was harm and the person who was dragged smashed his head on concrete.
“I don’t know how he lived,” she stated.
In a sufferer impression assertion to the courtroom, she stated the incident opened her eyes to hatred in the neighborhood.
“It was extremely jarring to have some stranger take it upon himself to punish a group of young unarmed people for inconvenience and/or political dissidence,” she wrote.
A police officer on the scene noticed Stepanek dashing away and famous his license plate however didn’t pursue him, citing site visitors congestion. The officer claimed to haven’t seen him plow by way of the gang.
The Iowa City Police Department introduced an investigation the subsequent day, after video of the incident unfold on social media and protesters accused police of failing to reply.
The division requested those that have been struck to return ahead, however solely Sileo did. Stepanek was arrested and spent 76 days in jail.
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