Change of Venue Granted for UI Student Accused of Choking Officer
By Vanessa Miller, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - A 20-year-old University of Iowa student charged with attempted murder will be tried outside Johnson County after a judge on Tuesday granted the defense attorney's request based on his argument that media saturation in this case would make it too difficult to seat an unbiased jury.
Mark Brown, who is defending Branden Plummer, also argued before a judge during a hearing this morning to have the Johnson County Attorney's Office either produce more evidence supporting the charge of attempted murder or dismiss the charge based on lack of evidence.
If Judge Paul Miller declines to drop the charge, Brown asked that he assign the Iowa Attorney General's Office to prosecute the case instead of the Johnson County Attorney's Office because it involves a local law enforcement officer and "clear" bias exists.
Miller said he'll issue a written ruling shortly on the requests to order prosecutors to provide further evidence, dismiss the charge or reassign the case to state prosecutors.
Miller ruled immediately to change the venue of the trial, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 21, because the Johnson County Attorney's Office didn't dispute Brown's arguments that a fair jury would be too difficult to seat here.
"It's hard to digest people's feelings," said Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey. "So we decided we would fight other issues."
Lahey said her office will suggest other jurisdictions, if the judge asks for recommendations, but she's hoping the trial will be moved outside the coverage area to eliminate any concerns.
Plummer, of Urbandale, is accused of choking Iowa City police Sgt. Brian Krei until he was unconscious near the corner of Burlington and Linn streets on Nov. 18, according to a criminal complaint. Krei had stopped Plummer for blocking traffic at the intersection, according to investigators.
Plummer, who also faces a willful injury-bodily injury charge, is accused of choking Krei and hitting his head into the concrete, according to a police report.
Brown, during today's hearing, argued that the charge against his client was elevated because of prosecutor loyalties to local police officers, and he cited medical reports showing insignificant injuries to Krei.
"Basically, the officer was discharged with no concerns or low-level concerns with a bump to the head," Brown said. "They said, 'If you feel dizzy or nauseated, be rechecked,' and he was allowed to leave."
But Lahey said serious injury isn't required for an attempted murder charge, and she argued against Brown's request to dismiss her office as prosecutors in the case saying there are no biases and county attorneys often prosecute cases involving local police victims.