Iowa: All Charges Dismissed in ‘Stand Your Ground’ Gunfight
Earlier this year, two men shot at each other outside a bar in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the ensuing legal fight, both men sought immunity under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Last week, a prosecutor’s office dismissed charges against one of the men.
According to the Des Moines Register, 23-year-old Michael Hodges Jr. and 21-year-old Zevon Johnson encountered each other outside Pub 217 in Des Moines in the early morning hours of Jan. 28. Security footage from the street shows the two men draw their guns and shoot at each other nearly simultaneously.
Hodges was uninjured. Johnson was shot in the chest, but survived.
Hodges reportedly went to the police station to report the shooting and turn in his gun. He had a valid concealed carry permit and claimed that he felt his life was in danger since he’d been assaulted and harassed by Johnson in the past.
Johnson, on the other hand, did not have a license to carry. His gun was later found to have been stolen from his mother’s car.
‘Stand Your Ground’ Claim Rejected
The Gazette says both men were initially charged with attempted murder and a variety of other counts. Each claimed to have fired in self defense and sought protection under the Hawkeye State’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which was enacted in 2017.
Johnson eventually reversed course and struck a plea deal. He pled guilty to an aggravated misdemeanor charge of carrying weapons and admitted to carrying a gun without a license within city limits. He was sentenced to one year of probation and given a deferred judgement. That means the charge will be wiped from his record if he completes probation. If he fails to complete probation, he faces up to two years in jail.
A judge rejected Hodges’ “Stand Your Ground” claim on the grounds that Iowa lacks a “clear pretrial procedure” to determine whether or not Hodges should receive immunity.
“This court is without authority to declare as a matter of law that Hodges is immune from any further prosecution,” Judge Patrick Grady of Iowa’s sixth judicial district wrote in his denial.
Thus, Hodges was going to stand trial on charges of attempted murder; willful injury and intimidation with a dangerous weapon; and going armed with intent. He faced up to 50 years in prison if found guilty on all counts.
But last week, Assistant County Attorney Monica Slaughter, who recently took over the case, announced that the Linn County Attorney’s Office is asking the court to dismiss all charges against Hodges. She said that, after reviewing the surveillance footage, Johnson was the “primary aggressor” in the incident.
“After a thorough Slickguns Review of the evidence, especially the video, I believe Michael Hodges Jr. was justified in drawing his weapon and shooting,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter said she had to slow the footage down repeatedly in order to come to the conclusion that Johnson was the first person to raise his gun. She added that she would’ve missed it if she hadn’t watched the video multiple times.
Slaughter said that, in the footage, Johnson is seen behind another, larger man; he soon moves to the side of that man, pulls out a gun from his pants or pocket, points it at Hodges and opens fire.
“The evidence wasn’t strong enough to prove the charges,” Slaughter said. “I think anybody in the same circumstances would have felt threatened and defended themselves.”
The video hasn’t been made public because it’s evidence in Johnson’s case.
Last Wednesday, Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns officially dismissed all charges against Hodges.
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