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IOWA CITY, Iowa - A former University of Iowa student accused of trying to kill an Iowa City police officer will spend the next month in jail.
Branden L. Plummer, 21, also will have a felony on his record for the rest of his life despite his pleas that a judge defer his sentence and allow his record to be cleared if he stayed out of trouble for two years.
"I'm not granting your request for a deferred judgment," Johnson County Judge Nancy Baumgartner said Friday during Plummer's sentencing hearing. "You seem like a nice young man. You have worked hard and are doing well. But what you did was a crime of violence."
Iowa City police Sgt. Brian Krei, who Plummer is accused of attacking and choking, said following the hearing that he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders.
"I didn't realize there was weight," he said. "But when the sentencing was all complete, I did notice a difference. It felt good."
Krei said he really wants to thank the woman who came to his aid the night of the assault, the police officers who investigated the case and the prosecutors who pursued a fair resolution.
He also acknowledged Plummer's apparent remorse.
"He apologized, I hope he's sincere," Krei said. "I hope he can get his life straightened out."
Plummer could have ended up with a lengthy prison term if convicted of the original charge against him – attempted murder. Instead, he pleaded guilty in September to lesser charges of willful injury, a felony, and interference with official acts inflicting bodily injury after police say he punched an officer last November, pushed his head into the concrete and choked him.
Plummer on Friday received a suspended prison sentence of up to five years, meaning he could be sent to a correctional facility if he violates the conditions of his two-year probation term. He also was given a 60-day sentence in the Johnson County Jail.
Baumgartner gave Plummer credit for the 30 days he's already served behind bars, meaning he has just one more month in jail.
Plummer and his attorney, Mark Brown, pleaded with the court to defer the felony.
"I know with certainty that I have seen what life could be like to be a criminal, and I must do everything in my power not to be on that path," Plummer said before a judge denied his request.
Plummer, while addressing the court, became choked up, turning at one point to the audience and apologizing.
"First, officer Krei, I'm sorry for what I've done," he said. "I wanted to go to the police department after I was out of jail to see you, but my attorneys told it wasn't a good idea at that moment because emotions were too high."
Plummer, his attorney and a therapist who testified on his behalf Friday told the court that Plummer doesn't remember hurting Iowa City police Sgt. Brian Krei. Brown told the court that he and his client still deny allegations that Plummer shoved the officer's head into the pavement and into a wheel well on Nov. 18.
"When you stopped me on the street, all I wanted to do was get away," Plummer said Friday. "But that is no excuse. I cannot undo my actions, but what I can do is demonstrate I have become a better person."
A therapist for Plummer testified Friday that he was abused as a child, struggled through his parents' contentious divorce and watched his father die of lung cancer. She said he has shown character in his efforts to heal from those traumas.
She and Brown told the judge that Plummer is enrolled at Upper Iowa University, has a job, has an internship scheduled and has proactively undergone alcohol treatment. Assistant County Attorney Anne Lahey pointed out that Plummer has continued drinking since completing the alcohol treatment and was ticketed since his attempted murder offense for trespassing.
"Obviously Mr. Plummer has prior offenses that could be described as an OWI, open container and paraphernalia," Lahey said. "But this involves willful injury on a police officer. This is so much more. This is not in the category of crimes that most other college students commit. This was a violent attack on a police officer."
The courtroom was filled with friends and family members of both Plummer and Krei. When the judge declined Plummer's request for a deferred judgment, family members started crying.
Plummer will have the opportunity to appeal his sentence.
According to amended trial information, Plummer punched Krei "in the face and head, pushed his head into the concrete once he had him down and then forcibly choked him."
The court documents say Plummer refused to show identification when asked by the officer, and he tried to run away from the scene near the corner of Burlington and Linn streets. When the officer tried to stop him, Plummer assaulted the officer, causing a concussion, abrasions and contusions.
Plummer's attempted murder trial, which was supposed to start in September, had been moved to Tama County because of concerns it would be difficult to seat an unbiased jury in Johnson County.